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THIS Is Why My Kids Can't Walk to School

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Somer Thompson's death gives one mom a wake-up call.

florida girl somer thompson missing

Momlogic's Julie: Last month, the New York Times ran a piece called "Why Can't She Walk to School?"

I'd like to answer that question now. Why can't my kids walk to school? Somer Thompson is the reason why. There are just too many evil, crazy people out there, and her murder is proof of that.

115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics. There are 73.7 million children in the U.S. YES, I realize that the odds are slim that the worst could happen. But tell that to Diena Thompson, Somer's mom. The odds were just as slim for her, and it happened.

It happened. And now her child is dead.

The New York Times article said that only 13 percent of kids walk or bike to school these days because parents are so anxious that something awful could happen. I'm definitely one of those paranoid parents, and Somer's heartbreaking case only makes me more vigilant.

Yes, I know my kids are much more likely to get into a car wreck on the way to school than be abducted while walking home. I get it. But Somer didn't die in a car crash. She died after being abducted, while walking home from school. And, as a parent, that is something I believe you could never get over -- never in a million years.

The child killer who did this to Somer didn't just kill that little girl ... he killed her whole family. Her mother. Her twin brother. Her other siblings. Her wheelchair-bound dad. Those people who loved Somer most will never be the same. This animal on the loose took away their innocence and life as they know it. He took away their Somer -- snuffed out her bright young life and threw her in a landfill like yesterday's trash.

So when you ask me why I won't let my kids walk to school ... THIS is why. Somer is why.

Call me paranoid all you want. But letting my kids walk alone is just not a risk I'm willing to take.

next: Michigan Too Broke to Inspect School Buses, May Stop Service
84 comments so far | Post a comment now
Elizabeth King October 22, 2009, 12:34 PM

I think we should rename this blog Mom No-Logic. Oftentimes parents whose children walk to and from school do not have the means to leave work and pick their children up. They have no choice. It is wonderful for you to have the economic means to make this safety decision. I have no doubt that the little girl’s mother would make the same decision were she able. And riding the bus was out of the question since there was no bus route available. It’s more helpful to be thankful that you are not in a position to have to let your children walk to school than to judge those who do not have the same luxuries.

Anonymous October 22, 2009, 12:43 PM

Elizabeth…how do you know what hardships Julie will have to endure to make sure kids never have to walk to school?! How dare YOU judge someone for making a decision about how far they will go to protect their own children.
Here’s a mother who’s being honest about her fears and all you do is criticize her. We live in a scary world. It’s a fact.

Megan October 22, 2009, 12:47 PM

1,335 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes

Let’s stop driving with kids in the car it seems far more dangerous.

Caley October 22, 2009, 12:49 PM

Elizabeth, This mom is just being honest about how many of us feel. Some people cannot afford another option, true, and the good news is the odds are in their favor. It will probably NOT happen to any of us. But when it does, like it did to Somer, it makes us all re-examine our priorities and our decisions. Maybe Dad works nights and Mom works days, or you trade off the chaperoning of the kids walking home with other parents. It just makes us think twice.

NYCRoe October 22, 2009, 1:03 PM

I disagree. I think it is COMPLETELY logical. I am a single mother and cannot afford the luxury of staying home. But that does not mean I cannot make other arrangements. If someone cannot afford a sitter-there are still plenty of other things we can do to help protect our children. None of these things can guarantee our kids safety-but there are things we can certainly do to improve the odds. Instructing them to always stay with a group, having trusted parents of the children attending the same school or taking the same bus home take turns walking with the children each day. I do not think anyone is blaming Somer’s mom. I just think it is a wake up call to us as parents that the world we live in has drastically changed and we have to make adjustments accordingly. This is a chance for dialogue - and I for one am thinking of initiating some action in my own community to bring parents together to discuss issues like this and come up with resolutions.

C B October 22, 2009, 1:04 PM

She lived with her mother…father lives in another state. It is bad enough to try and raise children in a city where 161 registered sex offenders live within a 5-mile radius of the home, but to allow your children to walk to and from school surrounded by sex offenders…crazy.

Kristen October 22, 2009, 1:04 PM

Yeah, I agree with this article. I am OK with being a paranoid parent. Their are LOTS of ways to teach independence to children without putting them in danger(like walking to school), just like there are LOTS of ways to teach socialization to children who are homeschooled.
On another note, the saddest part of this story is that the parents took extra precautions, Somer was with a group, but unfortunately she separated from the group and look at what happened.

NYCRoe October 22, 2009, 1:06 PM

And FYI when I said I disagree, I meant I disagree with Elizabeth King. I agree with the author and the rest of you that commented.

LLW October 22, 2009, 1:12 PM

Call us over-protective - but I live in a wonderful, “safe” neighborhood where there were TWO attempted child abductions in just the last week. Both children were walking home from school. They were lucky. I have no issue driving my young one to school. If you can’t drive them to-and-from, build a network of other parents and work together.

Anonymous October 22, 2009, 1:36 PM

I agree with the writer I turned down a pay raise and didn’t return to work after having my children. Living off of one income is a challenge but I’d rather have control over these sort of things rather than making a great income and not having the opportunity to control a situation like this. Just my opinion.

PottyMouthMommy October 22, 2009, 1:49 PM

I wonder how many of the posters here walked to/from school?? I wonder how many of these same posters DRIVE their own children. The statistics are MUCH MUCH higher that you will either kill another child while picking YOURS up- or that yours will be killed by someone ELSE running them over. “make other arrangements”- well, if abduction is your worry- be sure it isn’t someone in your family who is the “other arrangement” seeing as how 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions. (this stat from missingkids (dot) com) Instead of being hysterical, maybe we should stop and think of ways to actually HELP our children and foster their independence. Teach children what to do when approached by a stranger, give them the tools necessary to defend THEMSELVES. And then, hope for the best. That’s all you can really do.

Dawn October 22, 2009, 1:53 PM

And Somer is why I homeschool as well. Very simple.

Wendi October 22, 2009, 1:57 PM

I am so blessed that I am able to be a stay at home mom. With that said, I would do whatever it takes to make sure that my children are safe. I drive them back and forth everyday for school, and one that is farther away because I like it better. I never let my kids just hang out in our front yard alone, and they are middleschoolers. I rarely leave them home alone. Nothing that I have to do is worth risking theirs lives for. We live in a world full of people who harm children, and since I choose to have them it is my job to do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure they are safe at all times.

NYCRoe October 22, 2009, 2:05 PM

I do both walk with my child or drive. And I don’t care what the statistics are- I’m not taking that chance.

If something is going to happen, I’d rather it be when I am with my child, what Somer’s mom is going through must be beyond awful.

Elizabeth King October 22, 2009, 2:16 PM

It’s sad how many parents on this blog think they can keep their kids safe from predators by driving them to school. It’s a nice thought, but it isn’t true. Tragedy strikes sometimes and adopting a superior attitude of “Oh, I would NEVER let MY child walk to school!” doesn’t make you look like a better parent. It makes you look like you don’t understand reality. Please realize that sometimes terrible things happen to much loved children. As one writer wrote, the solution isn’t to try to keep your kids in a bubble but rather to teach them how to protect themselves from some of the horrible people in the world who would harm them given the chance. And I’m sorry, but writing blogs that are critical of a child walking to school is truly pathetic. It is mean spirited and it is designed to give YOU the writer a false sense of comfort: “Oh this can never happen to my kid because I am simply a better mom.” Well you’re not. You’re not a better mom. In fact, you are a lesser person for indirectly casting blame on a mother who is suffering a loss that you can’t even begin to imagine.

Anonymous October 22, 2009, 2:28 PM

More than 200 children are killed by their mother’s each year.

Shall we take children from their mothers?

200 children are killed accidentally by guns each year.

How many people have guns in the house and will despite any children being killed?

Between 100-200 kids choke to death every year-do you stop feeding them?

No-in each case, each day, you practice risk assessment. You wouldn’t not feed your children grapes because they might choke-you’s cut them, or you’d monitor them. You’d lock your guns up. You’d get treatment if you had PPD or other mood disturbances, in order to protect your children.

Refusing to allow your children to walk a few blocks home out of fear for the extremely random stranger abduction (100-150 nationally a year) seems sad.

Heidi October 22, 2009, 2:30 PM

Elizabeth King- you’re response is spot on. I agree 100% You said what I wanted to say in a much more eloquent manner.

NYCRoe October 22, 2009, 2:39 PM

These are personal choices we have to make and people are merely stating their opinions. No one is saying what is right or wrong, and I did not see anyone claim to be a better parent than anyone else. No one says not to do it. My heart hurts for Somer’s mom, and this tragedy is a reminder that if we do allow our children to walk to or from school or bus stops, that we must remind them to do things that can help them stay safe. And giving a false sense of comfort? Rest assured, many things can happen- but my child being abducted on the way to or from school isn’t going to be one of them if I can help it.

I realize things can happen anytime, anyplace. And I cannot be with my child 24/7. There are things that can happen and that would not make me a bad parent, as no one is saying Somer’s mom is a bad parent nor that she is to blame. but do you think Somer’s mom will be telling other parents not to worry about their kids going to and from school alone?? Or will she instead tell parents not to take that chance, to learn from what happened to her little angel in order to prevent something like this from happening to another child? I do not see this take on things as placing blame. I think Somer’s mom would agree with us and not you.

Elizabeth King October 22, 2009, 3:04 PM

NYCROE, I don’t think Somer’s mom would even be thinking this way, or about these things at all. She is too overcome with grief to be weighing the pros and cons of walking to school. And should you think that all’s well by taking simple precautions, I will remind you that there were three famous cases, (one in Florida about a year ago, the Polly Klaas case is another) where little girls were taken out of their homes by predators who broke in. The solution isn’t driving to school. It is to find a way to penalize predators so they are kept away from children forever.

Missy October 22, 2009, 3:25 PM

This is just another example of parenting gone overboard. I love my daughter. I am scared sometimes that something horrible could happen to her. However, I don’t keep her from living just to avoid my over-protective fear. If we lived within walking distance, my child would walk to school. I let her go to the bathroom in public places by herself. I let her stay the night at her friend’s houses. I encourage her to speak to employees at stores/restaurants/public places if she has questions. She jumps on trampolines, slides on slip ‘n slides, jumps down flights of stairs. So far she’s made it with no damage or traumatizing experiences. Sure, she gets nervous talking to strangers, she gets cuts and bruises, sometimes she gets sick, and sometimes she gets scared. But it’s all part of growing up. Coddling our children to the point where they have no confidence in themselves to take care of themselves is doing them a disservice. They’re going to grown up and think that it’s someone else’s job to protect them when they need to learn how to protect themselves. They need to learn self confidence so they can function in society.
When my children grow up, I want them to have a healthy respect for public safety, but I don’t want them to fear living. I pray every day that my daughter will be safe, and that nothing horrible ever happens to her. But, if by some terrible chance, something does happen, at least she’ll have lived up until the point that it happened. I would rather my children have a full, confident, fun-filled life up with a few very small risks, than to have them live a sortof half-life in fear of impending danger where they never get to experience anything for themselves.

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