Governor signs ‘free-range parenting’ bill

Photo by Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images Plus; St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — So-called “free-range parenting” will soon be the law of the land in Utah after the governor signed what appears to be the country’s first measure to formally legalize allowing kids to do things on their own to foster self-sufficiency.

The bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday that he’d signed, specifies that it isn’t neglectful to let kids do things alone like travel to school, explore a playground or stay in the car. The law takes effect May 8.

Utah’s law is the first in the country, said Lenore Skenazy, who coined the term free-range parent. A records search by the National Conference of State Legislatures didn’t turn up any similar legislation in other states.

Utah lawmakers said they were prompted to pass the law after seeing other states where parents had been investigated and in some cases had their children temporarily removed when people reported seeing kids playing basketball in their yards or walking to school alone.

Headline-grabbing cases have included a Maryland couple investigated after allowing their 10- and-6-year-old children to walk home alone from a park in 2015.

Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore of South Jordan has said allowing kids to try things alone helps prepare them for the future, though some have raised concerns the law could be used as defenses in child-abuse cases if not carefully deployed.

The law states the child must be mature enough to handle those things but leaves the age purposely open-ended so police and prosecutors can work on a case-by-case basis, Fillmore has said.

Skenazy, who wrote the book “Free Range Kids” after writing about letting her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone, has said the law is a good way to reassure parents who might be nervous about their parenting decisions.

Arkansas lawmakers considered a similar bill last year but ultimately rejected it.

On the federal level, another Utah politician, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, added an amendment to a 2015 federal education bill supporting the concept. It said kids shouldn’t be stopped from biking or walking to school alone with a parent’s permission, and parents shouldn’t face charges for letting them.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.


Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2018 issues

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • desertgirl March 18, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    This is only good old-fashioned common sense. Of course not to the progressive, nanny state lovers. We don’t need more liberal snowflakes, we need independent, self-reliant and responsible young adults and they don’t get that way being coddled, protected from everything in life. You cannot learn and be a emotional and mentally healthy human if you are afraid and looking for a safe space.

    • Hunter March 18, 2018 at 8:35 pm

      I’m a liberal, and I’m in full support of this. Common sense rules, and the law takes into account each situation. Last time I checked, most of the “nanny state” initiatives in UT are the doing of the conservatives who rule the roost.

      • PatriotLiberal March 19, 2018 at 8:28 am

        …like the archaic laws on Alcohol and Tobacco.

  • ladybugavenger March 18, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    When I was a kid, I walked to kindergarten alone, then middle school, then high school. I turned out fine ?. We also played outside until the street lights came on, drank out of the garden hose, we didn’t wear seatbelts, we walked to the store, and we took the bus to the beach. This world is definitely a different place now. Too many laws. There is not a law that can be made to stop evil…..just sayin’

    • mctrialsguy March 19, 2018 at 11:53 am

      Yeah, me too! And, I am still here and independent.

    • Striker4 March 20, 2018 at 3:49 am

      Yeah and we had to walk to school in the blinding snowstorm with no shoes and uphill both ways and had to stop by the river and catch some fish so we could have something for lunch

  • Lastdays March 18, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Hmmm, so we need a Law to allow kids and parents to behave normally ??

    • ladybugavenger March 18, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      Lol… Silly isn’t it.

    • NotSoFast March 18, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      It’s just a way to tell the nanny state supporters through out the country, that we’ll protect our own, thank you. Or the kids parents in Our State, have the last word.

  • Dolly March 18, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Let them walk to school or the park or their friend’s house. I did all that and survived unscathed. Helicopter parents are so annoying. On the other hand, I just hope the nice restaurant I choose to dine in has a sign in the window – no free-range children allowed without parental supervision. (That is, if there is enough room next to the “not a bar” sign). Utah…what the???

    • Snarkles March 19, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Helicopter parents may be “annoying” to some, but at least their kids aren’t on drugs, out bullying others, or getting snatched off the street and ending up in a field raped and dead. Many neighborhoods aren’t the same as they were when I was a child. And having had a few close calls myself, I can say this nonchalant attitude about parental responsibility isn’t useful to anyone.

      • Hunter March 19, 2018 at 12:24 pm

        I am assuming this is your opinion, as I’m not aware of any studies showing that helicopter parenting results in lower incidences of drug abuse or bullying. My experience has been quite the opposite. Most of my friends raised by excessively restrictive parents ended up using drugs and alcohol much earlier than others I know, and were generally quick to be mean, condescending and belittling to others. My guess is they were acting out about the overbearing parents at home, but that’s just my take on it.

        • Snarkles March 19, 2018 at 3:53 pm

          In what universe is making sure your kids get to and from safely restrictive? Most parents from well to do neighborhoods do exactly that… they actually care enough to get out of bed, feed their kids a decent breakfast, and get them to school and then pick them up and get them to their after school activities. Keeping my kids fed, clothed, educated, taught manners and common sense was my job. They were my kids and they were my business and my heart. They always knew that they actually mattered. They don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs and are responsible college educated working adults with families. You want to let your kids risk their lives or be exposed to bullying, drugs, being hit by cars and stray bullets meant for someone else, and all the garbage kids are dealing with today… go ahead. You have to live with the guilt, and they have to deal with your who cares attitude. There is a reason children are supposed to have parents until they are 18 and beyond if necessary. They are not puppies that you dump on someone else at 8 weeks or birds that fall out of the nest after a 3 weeks and may live or die and no one cares.

  • bikeandfish March 19, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Makes perfect sense.

    Not sure why folks consider this partisan. The prosecution of parents in these cases involves the enforcement of “child neglect” laws that have bipartisan support. I mean Utah is as red as they come and they have them on their books. This bill is an amendment that clarifies existing code to prevent the possibility of such interpretation. It passed the Senate and House without a single nay vote, ie bipartisan.

  • HerePliggyWiggy March 19, 2018 at 8:21 am

    We need a law for this? Man am I glad I grew up when and where I did.

  • chris keele March 19, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Yes pliggywiggy haven’t you been watching the progressive left of this ( still great Nation in spite of the liberal socialist’s best efforts ) to continue their experiment on us all? It’s called “socialism”, ask the people in Venezuela how well it works !

    • mctrialsguy March 19, 2018 at 11:51 am

      chris, you are so right. Socialism is here, let’s make it so it isn’t here to stay.

  • theone March 19, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I agree 100% with this law. Child Protective Services already pounce on the slightest infraction they can find and turning a good family upside down.
    We need CPS to be sure, but they can be far too intrusive at times.

  • PatriotLiberal March 19, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Helicopter parents are NOT the problem. Parents not holding their children accountable for their actions IS. I worked in a school district for many years and I can list 100s of times when the parents of some child or another excused their behavior, outright denied it even in the face of indisputable proof or blamed the teacher (or ANYONE else) when that kid did something.

    Kid failed a test? Teachers fault. ‘You need to teach him/her better” they say
    Kid bullied another kid? Didn’t happen. ‘Not my child. He/She NEVER behaves that way at home” They say
    Kid caught on video destroying a toy isle at Wal-Mart? Kid has (insert medical diagnosis here) “It’s not his/her fault, He/She has (Insert medical diagnosis here) and can’t control themselves.” they say.

  • comments March 19, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    the bolshevik communists also promised some type of utopian socialist dreamworld, where you could almost trust the intentions of big brother gov’t… human nature won over in the end, and it ended up being the most murderous, tyrannical regime in history.

    • comments March 19, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      *where you could always trust the intentions of big brother gov’t

  • John March 19, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    ” Don’t let your babies grow up to be liberals !”

    • Striker4 March 20, 2018 at 3:51 am

      Oh oh somebody ruffled Johns pretty pink panties again

  • mta3000 March 20, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    As father of 6 kids, I’ve had my children brought back to me on multiple occassions by concerned parents – which is understandable when it’s a toddler holding up traffic or something that’s obviously amiss.

    Where I get annoyed is when a fretful mother brings my 5 year old to me who’s attempting to walk half a block from school to our home.

    This happened to me and, in my case, the fretful mother brought my 5 year old back to me when she attempted to go to the playground to play and, afterwards, the mother called a police office who gave me the third degree like Principal Strickland in “Back to the future”.

    Hopefully, with this law, I won’t have this problem anymore.

    • PatriotLiberal March 22, 2018 at 12:23 am

      If you get annoyed when a ‘fretful mother’ brings your 5 year old back to you, do something about it. Get off your butt and watch your kids.

  • An actual Independent March 24, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Completely in favor of common sense, free range parenting. Bravo.
    Now, if we could just do something about lazy, free-for-all parenting, I could go to a restaurant or movie again.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.