Are Arkansas parents smart enough to know when it’s safe to leave their kids unattended?
Apparently, many legislators don’t think so.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted down legislation introduced by State Sen. Alan Clark to tweak the legal definitions of child neglect and maltreatment in Arkansas.
Clark’s legislation had previously received overwhelming support in the Senate.
This is a parents’ rights bill. As a practical matter, this bill requires DHS to close investigations of child maltreatment once they find there was no maltreatment.
This just simply says that kids walking home from a park and kids being left in a car in good weather for a few minutes is not a criminal act.
According to the bill’s language, the legislative intent is to protect a parent or guardian’s decision to grant his or her children unsupervised time to engage in activities that include playing outside, walking to school, bicycling, remaining briefly in a vehicle, and remaining at home.
Clark says investigation and prosecutions of parents allowing their kids to engage in these activities unattended has introduced unnecessary governmental intrusion into the homes of families and diverted valuable public resources to inconsequential and trivial matters.
House Speaker Jeremy Gillam asked during the committee meeting about whether it was possible for a vehicle to be carjacked within just a few minutes while the parent was in the store with his/her kids in the car.
Of course, it’s possible. That doesn’t mean it should be a crime to leave your kids unattended in a vehicle for two minutes. If you make the assumption that any imaginable tragedy is sufficient reason to never allow kids to be left unattended by parents, public schools should close tomorrow. It’s possible to imagine that kids could be sexually abused or beaten by a school employee. Does that mean parents who send their kids to school everyday are bad parents? Obviously not.
A representative of the prosecutor coordinator’s office, Lori Kumpuris, also spoke to the committee. Kumpuris noted that her association was neutral towards the bill, and then proceeded to criticize the bill — stating, in particular, that she was concerned about the bill’s impact on prosecutorial discretion. It is hard to interpret such a statement as anything other than suggesting that there are some prosecutors who really do want to hold criminal penalties over the heads of parents who do nothing more sinister than allow their children to take neighborhood walks.
Unfortunately, this committee decided via a voice vote to not pass this legislation. I guess we’re going to have to change the state mascot to a helicopter — since many legislators think anything short of helicopter parenting should be illegal in Arkansas.