Friday, October 2, 2009

A "Walking" School Bus?

Should walking or biking to school be such a controversy, even for a 12 year old? Society is no more dangerous or hazardous for walkers than it was even just ten years ago. Banning bikers is also outrageous, since it is highly unlikely a student is going to be molested or kidnapped while riding to school. The only thing that has changed over the years is that schools are more paranoid than ever. While they do have jurisdiction over students while on the premises or riding the buses, they don't have any right to enforce the behaviors of students when they are not in either of those two places. The whole reason why it's a controversy in the first place is just an indication of how far off the deep end society has slipped over protecting young people to the point of infantilizing them.
The 12-year-old [Adam Marino] and his mother, Janette Kaddo Marino, are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School on Route 9. The Jackson Street residents pedal more than four miles together each way to the middle school on nice days despite being told not to by school officials and police.
First of all, if they are really pedaling four miles to school, they really ought to be taking the bus anyways. How does the school expect them to get to school at that distance, presuming the parents are unable to do it, if (for whatever reason) they are not provided a school bus? Something doesn't make sense here.
Their methods may be unconventional, but the Marinos are part of a growing number of Americans challenging the sedentary habits of today's youths and what they view as overanxious "helicopter" parenting. As fewer children walk and bike to school nationwide, parents have started groups like the "Walking School Bus," which promotes physical activity and fitness in youth by having them walk to school with adults.
These are some progressive parents for sure, and you got to applaud their efforts to resist irrational over-protectionism, but is having a "walking school bus" itself even necessary? Again, we're not talking about elementary school kids, we're talking about 12 year olds. Doesn't society know the difference anymore? But at least they're trying, and they are indeed promoting physical activity, I can see that doing a lot of good. I was just totally unaware that that a trend towards fewer and fewer walkers was happening.

Lukily, the school in this instance seems to agree that they may be over-reaching their legal limits here, and they are scheduled to meet on amending the school code concerning walkers and bikers on October 13th. It's about time someone high up in that administration said what needed to be said:
"Supervised, parent/guardian bike riding may be permitted at specific sites in the future," White said in an interview Friday. The school has no legal responsibility over what occurs on Route 9," she added.
If anything, society is actually safer these days than it was 30 years ago when walking to school was far more common. I've seen reports that indicate this. If parents or schools have anything to fear, it's fear itself. Take time to teach kids about the hazards of walking to school on their own, make sure they know what routes to take, run them through possible trouble-scenarios so that if anything does happen they know how to deal with it. Eventually though, you just have to let them get their feet wet on their own.

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