The GEM Debate:
Did This Mom React Or Overreact? (VIDEO)(POLL)
A great-grandfather took a child home from school recently in Connecticut. The problem? The child he took wasn’t his great-grandchild. The two boys had similar hats, and the one great-grandpa took home had his hat pulled all the way over his head.
Great-grandpa got home, realized his mistake, and called the school right away. The principal called the mom and told her that her son had been accidentally picked up by the wrong man. They tried to reassure her that her child was not in danger, that the man was someone known to the school. Her son was being returned immediately.
The mom—Angela Stone—insisted that the police and child protective services be notified. That didn’t happen and she is upset about it. The school’s response was to update parents on the pickup policy and designate three pickup zones for pre-K to kindergarten, grades 1 and 2, and grades 3-8. An emergency meeting of the school board was held and Stone is emotional as she speaks about what happened.
Any parent would be upset if a stranger takes their child. I would be upset. And, yet, calling the police and involving child protective services feels like a bit of an overreaction to me. We live in a highly imperfect world that sometimes feels like it gets more imperfect by the minute. Things happen in ways we don’t plan. Something went wrong in this school’s pickup protocol. Why isn’t it enough for the school to review and strengthen its child pickup policies?
I know, I know—the “what ifs” of this situation are many. What if great-grandpa was a child molester? What if he was a murderer? What if he didn’t contact the school? What if mom is waiting at the bus stop and her child doesn’t get off the bus? We could talk about the “what ifs” ad infinitum. But, those “what ifs” don’t change “what was.” The boy was returned unharmed to the school. Yet, Stone wants immediate disciplinary action to be taken against administration.
Lenore Skenazy, an advocate of raising free-range children, wrote about this story on her site and I want to quote her here: “We have been trained to see every child not directly supervised as in unspeakable danger. We have been trained to imagine what terrible thing COULD happen in any situation involving a child, and to react as if it DID, or almost did.”
I certainly haven’t been in Stone’s shoes and I pray that I never am. It’s easy for me or anyone else to say what we would and wouldn’t do in this situation and it doesn’t mean anything because it’s all theory and not reality. But knowing who I am today, I think initially I would be upset, then extremely thankful that none of the horrible “what ifs” came to be. I would do more to help my child ensure his own safety when he isn’t with me, like reiterate that he is never to go anywhere with a stranger. Then, I would work with the school to make sure its pickup policies are sound for every parent and child. I see no need for heads to roll because of “what ifs.”
What are your feelings about this? Is the mom overreacting? Did the school do enough? Take the poll and share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.