Yes. you read that right. Tammy Cooper was arrested last week and thrown into jail because her two kids, ages 6 and 9, were playing outside. The youngsters weren’t vandalizing, or causing any kind of trouble. They were riding their scooters around the neighborhood. Bad idea.
It’s not the first time. Earlier this year, a community in Florida decided to prohibit anyone under age 18 from going outside unsupervised by an adult. If you’re a kid at Ole Village in Lely Resort, Collier County, Florida, that means no bike riding, no walking to the bus stop, no being outside at all, without an adult.
As the author of a book on the importance of kids getting out, I am outraged, as all moms should be. I speak to so many parents who remember the days when they could play outside, maybe leaving home on a summer morning and not returning except for meals until bedtime. And they wish their kids could enjoy the same freedom.
Ironically, Tammy Cooper is a stay-at-home mom who moved to her Texas home precisely because she thought the cul-de-sac provided a safe neighborhood for her children to play in.
But Cooper’s next-door neighbor in LaPorte, Texas, saw two kids playing on the front lawn and decided to call the cops because she thought the kids shouldn’t be playing outside unsupervised. In fact, mom was sitting outside in a lawn chair but when the police arrived they didn’t believe her story. For whatever reason, they believed the neighbor instead, and they hauled Tammy Cooper into the police car and into a jail cell where she spent 18 hours overnight.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Orange jump suit, in a cell, slammed the door, for 18 hours,” Cooper told KPRC-TV.
Cooper was arrested for child endangerment and she is disputing the charges.
According to Yahoo News:
Cooper is suing the La Porte Police Department, the officer, and the neighbor who made the call. In a statement, the police department said it was “confident of the known actions of the officers on the scene that evening.” The neighbor had no comment.
When one in three children in this country is overweight or obese, and the average child spends almost nine hours a day staring at electronic devices, isn’t it more dangerous to stay inside than to step outside?
Today’s child is “The Hurried Child,” as David Elkind famously wrote: burdened with after-school classes, soccer practice, special tutors and no time to just be a kid.
Tammy Cooper was being a “hummingbird” parent: watching her kids, but not so closely as to stifle them. Kids need some protection and they need some independence. That’s what being a good parent is all about.
What do you think? Should the cop have used some common sense and not arrested the mom despite the neighbor’s call? And what about that neighbor?