Monday, April 20, 2015

Should people be able to sue buttinskys?

This morning, I read yet another article about a mother who had the cops called on her because she made the decision to leave her child alone in the car for a few minutes.  The article highlighted several cases of parents being harassed by police and "buttinskys" who disagree with their decisions.  Having grown up in the 70s and 80s in a place where I was allowed to run amok freely and blissfully without parental supervision, I can't imagine how stressful it must be to try to raise kids in today's society.  Everybody has a cellphone and they aren't afraid to whip it out and use it.

I think it's very sad and scary that people are so ready to police their neighbors for doing things that their parents did when they were growing up.  And when you think about what happens to the parents who have the cops called on them, it does seem like there should be some kind of legal remedy for this kind of harassment.

Of course, in writing this, I know I may get some comments from people who'll say, "But what if no one calls the cops and something bad happens?  Won't people be asking why no one did anything to 'protect' the child from the strangers lurking around, eager to snatch them?"

The police shouldn't be focused on a mom who leaves her 9 year old kid alone in the car for a few minutes while she picks up a loaf of bread.  They should be looking for people that are actually breaking the law.  If there really are a bunch of sicko perverts in every neighborhood looking to abduct and molest children, why not focus on catching them instead of criminalizing parents for making decisions that their own parents made with no interference from the public?

Could a child get hurt if he or she is left alone for a few minutes?  Yes.  But so could an adult.  Accidents happen and that's a lesson that all people have to learn as they mature.  Kids have to learn how to be self-sufficient.  Parents are not always going to be there to protect their offspring, so kids need to have the opportunity to take care of themselves.  I think parents should be allowed to make the decisions as to when that kind of training happens.  The vast majority of parents truly want what is best for their kids and are in a much better position to know when their child is old enough to do something.  A stranger observing for a few minutes can't know and has no right to disrupt a person's life by wantonly calling the cops at the drop of a hat.

I started thinking about how I would react if I were in a situation like the women in the Salon article I read today.  I thought about how outraged I would be if some passer by dared to stick their nose into my business and call the police on me over a non-issue.  What about the damage to my reputation, loss of income due to having to attend court dates or parenting classes, invasion of privacy, or even just the assault on my civil rights?

I know that suing Good Samaritans could have a chilling effect on society.  If we start suing people who are "only trying to help", won't that make people less inclined to help others?  It probably would.  At the same time, I think about all the people being harassed by law enforcement, the judicial system, and child protective services and I feel like they should have a way to defend themselves or even fight back against troublemaking do gooders.

It's not that I think suing people is a good thing.  It's just that people take shit too far.  If you see someone beating the hell out of their child or a kid is in a hot car, by all means call the law.  But if a child is sitting alone peacefully, playing a game on their iPad and minding their own business, just fuck off already and leave them in peace.  Calling the police will only scare the child and cause grief to the parents and it will take the cops away from their real job, which is to catch criminals.  Calling CPS over a parent leaving their child alone for five minutes ensures that caseworkers have an even larger workload, which leads to burnout and less time available to deal with real cases of abuse and neglect.



  1. i don't think people should be sued for reporting as long as available evidence indicates that the report was made in good faith and not some sort of revenge act between battling ex-spouses, hostile neighbors, fighting relatives or something of the sport. That doesn't mean I would call the police if I saw a 9-year-old in a car by himself or herself for a fifteen minutes in no obvious distress. I think the burden needs to be on law enforcement and any other agencies involved to make responsible judgments and legitimate citations. The trained personnel are the agencies handling the situations. The dispatchers should probably ask more questions ("how long have you observed the child to be in the car?" "How old does the child appear to be?" etc.)_before they even send officers on the scene unless law enforcement has nothing better to do. Law enforcement, if they have enough time to deal with a situation that's apparently not a crisis, probably should take a "wait and see" approach, as in if the child is still in the car by himself after an hour or so, then perhaps check the situation out. i think it would be a mistake to make people afraid to call for assistance on behalf of a child. If someone makes a report that is found to be an act of revenge or otherwise a bad-faith report, by all means throw the book at that person and make allowance for the recovery of damages.

    By the way, i saw a news bleep earlier today about the fat-shamer whom I believe was someone you cited in an earlier blog. she had just given birth a week or so before photos were posted of her toned abdominal muscles. some people never give up. Her kids may grow up to have iQs in the 60s because sh probably deprived them of essential nutrients while she was carrying them.

    1. Oh jeez, she's reproducing again?

      I suppose you're right about cop calling. But there sure are a lot of self-righteous people who know all there is to know about parenting out there. I've been having a debate for the last couple of days about this on Facebook. I think it's sad that we have so little faith in the resilience of children and competence of their parents these days.


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