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Virginia Makes It Legal for Kids to Play Outside

Lenore Skenazy on

Children in Virginia can now play outside without their parents getting investigated for neglect. Imagine that!

Sunday night, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed what is colloquially called the "Reasonable Childhood Independence" bill -- and was formerly known as the Free-Range Parenting bill. It passed both houses unanimously.

Wait -- Democrats and Republicans AGREED on a PARENTING issue in Virginia? YES.

The bill narrows the state's neglect laws, which had been so vague and broad that parents were getting investigated simply for letting their kids walk or play outside.

Now the new law states clearly that "neglect" is when you put a child in serious and obvious danger -- not simply anytime you take your eyes off them, or anytime a disapproving neighbor or official can dream up a far-fetched peril.

This is great news for everyone, but especially people like Elsa Hackel, 12. She testified to the legislature about the time she was walking home from the bus stop in Falls Church, Virginia, at age 9. Four police officers showed up at her door, she said, "before I could get my coat off! They said they got a call about a kid alone in the cold seen going into this house."


Elsa was terrified her parents would be taken away. "Since then," she said, "I haven't wanted to go outside very often."

Her mother, naval architect Evelyn Hackel, testified, "I never imagined there would be more police involved for that, than for when my neighbor was assaulted by a fugitive."

Anna Fields from rural Pearisburg, Virginia, testified, too. She's 9. About a year ago, she said, "My brother, sister, and I were all playing outside and a neighbor said we weren't safe because we didn't have any grown-ups around."

The siblings were playing next door to their own home, Anna's mom, Emily Fields, testified. But thanks to that neighbor's call, "Child Protective Services showed up at our door. We were accused of neglect for letting the children play in the front yard. I was told that I personally have to be visible to my neighbors so that they know that my children are supervised."


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Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.




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