07 February 2013

"Nanny" laws and rules

Can someone please tell me these are urban legends:
(A) Local licensing authorities outlawed soap in pre-school bathrooms for fear that children might suddenly start drinking it. Now kids must come out and ask an adult to squirt some soap in their hands.

(B) Unaccompanied children under age 12 were banned from the Boulder, CO, library, lest they encounter “hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture…and other library patrons.”

(C)The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of certain fleece hoodies sold at Target because of lead paint on the zipper, which presumably could raise blood lead levels if the zippers are eaten.

(E) A New Canaan, CT, mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor,” for letting her 13-year-old babysit the three younger children at home for an hour while the mom went to church.

(F) A Tennessee mother was thrown in jail for letting her kids, aged 8 and 5, go to the park without her, a block and half away from home.
Found at Cato Unbound without links to the sources of the stories, via The New Shelton wet/dry.


  1. Unfortunately, it wouldn't surprise me if any of these were true. It reminds me of the story I saw on the news years ago: A young girl had broken her arm after tripping while running on her school playground. Her parents sued the school board and - inexplicably - won their case! Next thing, signs went up all over the playground: NO RUNNING.

  2. Well, I wonder if the library one is really for the reason stated or because kids aren't so well-behaved. The library I work in isn't a public library, it's a college library, and we have the same policy, but the policy evolved because people would dump their kids in the library while they went to class, and these kids were sometimes well-behaved, but mostly not well-behaved. It's not that we fear for their safety as much as that the kids disrupt quiet spaces and we don't have the staff to continually watch them.
    I remember spending afternoons in the public library as soon as I was old enough to ride my bike there; it was a glorious place and I hate to see a community where kids can't take advantage of it; but at the same time, I grew up in a time that if an adult in a library or a teacher or whomever told me how to behave, I did it.

  3. Oh c'mon. Young children poison themselves with household chemicals every day, but (A) is unreasonable. (B) could well be driven by liability concerns - and just where are unattended children okay to run amok? (C)...I could easily see a kid sucking on a zipper pull, why the hell should there be lead allowed in any apparel? (E and F)...is that the whole story in each case? I suspect there's much more to each even than suggested.

    Cato libertarian nonsense.

  4. The lead paint recall makes sense - if we don't want to paint houses with it, we really don't want to paint our clothing with it either. There's got to be regulations against it, so the issue here may not be the potential danger to the public as much as a manufacturer trying to sidestep the law.

    For the New Canaan story, I did find this: http://newcanaan.patch.com/articles/chimney-scam

    A four year old left the house and wandered across the street into the neighbor's yard, which prompted the neighbors to call the police. The thirteen year old was watching two other siblings, ages ten and 1 1/2. The mom was charged with risk of injury to a minor, I can't find any record of whether she was convicted or not. The comments section is rife with speculation (and mud slinging), including suggestions that this must have been an ongoing problem for the neighbors to get the police involved. Someone else says the local law is that 13 year olds can legally be left on their own, but younger children must be watched by a 15 year old, but no-one can seem to come up with proof of that.

    Personally, I'm not going to worry about it unless someone can show that a) the mom really was being reasonable and there were no additional problems in the mix and b) she got convicted for it.

  5. The hoodies recall is real. It's very common for all child-specific consumer products to be rigorously tested and controlled for lead content as well as other potential toxins (e.g. phthalates). IMO it's for good reasons too. After all, it's not uncommon to see even adults chewing on pens and other objects.

  6. Okay, I got curious...

    The only reference I can find to A) is here: http://www.freerangekids.com/no-liquid-soap-allowed-in-pre-school-bathroom-children-might-drink-it/ It's a reader writing in to a blog titled "Free Range Kids", she specifies that she's in New York.

    The best result I could find when searching for "New York preschool bathroom soap" is a copy of NY state requirements for daycare facilities: http://www.daycare.com/newyork/new-york-daycare-center-licensing-requirements.html The document is missing its indents, so I can't cite anything more specific than section 418-1.11 titled "Health and Infection Control", which includes "(q) Toilet facilities must be kept clean at all times, and must be supplied with toilet paper, soap and disposable towels accessible to the children."

    So unless someone has further proof, I think we can safely ignore that one.

  7. (F) is true. The story is here: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/News/article.php?id=100729

  8. As a Boulder parent, I can report that B is indeed true, though the library caught so much flack for the policy that it was quickly backed away from.


    I think I personally spent at least three afternoons a week in my public library growing up, with no parental supervision in sight. Of course, the librarians all knew exactly how to reach our parents if we did act up.

  9. In Dallas, TX, at least in two elementary schools I am infrequently visiting as a nutrition and food teacher, soap is carried by the chaperons and dispensed into kids' hands. This has little to do with consumption and more to do with austerity measures and second grader curiosity as to the surface a bottle of soap can cover when emptied onto the floor.

  10. I think Minnesotastan's question was ironic. Honestly, I don't know how so many people of my age ever managed to grow up. And my daughters used to complain that I was overprotective. By today's standards, I was negligent indeed.

  11. I can tell you that the first one is certainly fact in N.C. Daycare centers.
    Not sure if it extends beyond that, but it went into effect in 2012.

  12. As a parent of four boys, age 10, 8, 6, and 3, I have to say (F) sounds extremely negligent to me, (E) seems like it would depend on the kid. I've seen grown people play with hoodie zippers with their mouth, as one might with a toothpick, so that kinda makes sense. (A) and (B) are simply utterly ridiculous, and a symptom of what happens when people are not given the resources they need to succeed, and their only known resort is control.

    All that aside, the *real* question here is, what the heck happened to (D)? .-)

    1. If you click on the Cato link, you will understand why I didn't include (D).

  13. I looked a bit into (E) http://newcanaan.patch.com/articles/chimney-scam and apparently the police investigated because they saw a 3yo wandering unattended in the yard. If this means "frontyard" I'd say there was a real risk the kid would end up of the road, an danger's way.

  14. If you enjoy pulling your hair out over nanny-state shenanigans, I HIGHLY recommend Reason TV's Nanny of the Month video series on YouTube.

  15. I wouldn't be surprised at any of these, sadly. A good friend of mine was threatened with a call to child protective services because she let her very smart, aware, and full-of-common-sense daughter ride a public bus alone to school in the Washington, DC, suburbs. Total mess. http://www.freerangekids.com/a-principal-calls-cps-after-mom-lets-daughter-10-ride-city-bus-to-school/


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