Leaving a child unsupervised outside for a few minutes can still be illegal in Arkansas.
A state legislative committee rejected a bill this month that would have prevented parents from being charged with neglect for leaving a child outside alone.
According to the summary, Senate Bill 305 was designed to “protect a parent or guardian’s decision to grant his or her children unsupervised time to engage in activities that include without limitation playing outside, walking to school, bicycling, remaining briefly in a vehicle, and remaining at home.”
It was designed to prevent investigations of parents who leave children alone for short periods of time, Reason reported. The bill would have allowed a child to remain unsupervised in a car for 15 minutes “if the temperature inside the vehicle is not or will not become dangerously hot or cold.”
“This just simply says that kids walking home from a park and kids being left in a car in good weather for a few minutes is not a criminal act,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Alan Clark (R-Hot Springs), said.
Despite that, the House Judiciary Committee rejected the legislation earlier this month after it had passed the Senate, Reason reported.
The bill was drafted by the Reason Foundation’s Adrian Moore, free-range kids advocate Lenore Skenazy, and Advance Arkansas Institute’s Dan Greenburg, with the help of attorneys.
“This is a bill to make sure my parents would not be criminals,” Scott said. “This is a parents’ rights bill. As a practical matter, this bill requires DHS (Department of Human Services) to close investigations of child maltreatment once they find there was no maltreatment.”
But Republican House Speaker Jeremy Gillam opposed the bill, noting it takes only 37 seconds to carjack a vehicle with a child inside.
Skenazy, in a Reason story, asserted that Gillam’s assertion is beside the point.
“Simply because something can happen does not mean that it is remotely likely to happen,” she wrote. “And as Clark proceeded to point out: If kids can be kidnapped in 37 seconds from a car, the same must hold true if they are allowed to ride their bikes, or walk home from the park on their own.”
Caleb Taylor of The Arkansas Project argued:
If you make the assumption that any imaginable tragedy is sufficient reason to never allow kids to be left unattended by parents, public schools should close tomorrow. It’s possible to imagine that kids could be sexually abused or beaten by a school employee. Does that mean parents who send their kids to school everyday are bad parents? Obviously not.
The bill’s legislative findings asserted that parental coddling of children has had negative effects on kids.
“The alarming rise of obesity and diabetes in childhood is almost certainly linked to the insistence of parents and guardians on driving their children to school and activities instead of allowing their children to walk,” the bill stated. “As measured by incidences of mental health difficulties, today’s over-supervised youth experience more difficulties upon reaching adulthood than earlier generations.
“Earlier generations learned resilience by walking, bicycling, playing, helping out, and solving problems without constant adult intervention,” the legislation states.
The legislation was prompted by news stories about the arrests and investigation of parents for leaving children outside alone.
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