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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
ame i. October 23, 2009, 9:14 AM

It is also important to teach our kids to stay together and what to do if someone tries to take them.
My 11 year old is my size, it wouldn’t be as easy for someone to snatch her as it would be for someone to take my 75 pound 9 year old daughter. I’ve told them both to always stay together if out of my sight, grab onto each other or wrap themselves around their bikes and scream “fire” or “rape”. May or may not help.

Anna October 23, 2009, 10:40 AM

I work in law enforcement and have unfortunately dealt with cases similar to Somer’s. Once a case is closed and you have time to reflect on the reality of it all, it’s incredible to see the similarities in how the parents were more concerned with letting their children be independent and experiencing life for themselves than ensuring their safety. This is a very different world than the one most of us grew up in,but more importantly they are CHILDREN. They need guidance, they need protection they can’t protect themselves. Yes you can let kids be kids, but letting your child walk around a public place by himself or herself, sending them out to the front yard to play without supervision, letting them walk to the corner store by themselves?? You are putting your child in danger. Yes, the odds are that nothing would happen to your child, but even allowing that possibility is irresponsible because nowadays there are ALWAYS options no matter what your economic status is.

Krolik October 23, 2009, 11:47 AM

@Anna,

By “cases similar to Somer’s”, do you mean stranger abductions happening on the way to school? How many such cases have you personally worked on? Are you part of a special task force?

According to statistics, there are only about a hundred stranger abductions happening every year in the entire country. They did not all happen in the same way. In some highly publicized cases, kids were stolen from their bedrooms, or taken by force right from their parents’ hands. Nor did they all happen to elementary and middle-school aged kids - some were babies and in fact the majority were teen-agers.

But, for the sake of the argument let’s assume all 100 were crimes of opportunity committed against school-age children while outside unsupervised. Then indeed they can be seen as the result of a parent placing the child’s independence above their safety from this particular kind of crime.

There are 60 million school-age kids in this country. According to statistics, 13% of them walk to school every day. That’s 3.9 million kids. So for every child who is abducted on the way to school, at least 39 thousand learn independence, get fresh air and exercise, and reduce their risk of dying in a car-crash or from obesity-related illness.

On a related note, the more children walk to school every day, the greater the likelihood that an abduction on the way to school will be seen and prevented. So the more children walk to school, the safer all children become from abduction (and from the much bigger risk of being hurt while riding in a car or getting run over by a car driving another child to school).

NYCRoe October 23, 2009, 11:49 AM

Thank you Anna, for stating that in the way that you did. Well said.
And I am NOT placing blame on Somer’s mom. I said IF I could help it. Not that I absolutely could. She had her daughter walking with other children-which I said that I have allowed my own child to do on certain occasions. You just don’t get it, do you? I am saying this is a wake up call for parents to think about these things- and then make their own decisions, whatever that may be. You do you, I’ll do me. Sheesh, people sure like pointing fingers and balking.

Krolik October 23, 2009, 11:54 AM

Correction: 60*0.13 = 7.8 not 3.9. So, for every abducted child, there are almost 80 thousand whose chance of dying from obesity or while in their parents’ car is significantly reduced. Also, they’ll probably do their own laundry in college.

Krolik October 23, 2009, 11:55 AM

Correction: 60*0.13 = 7.8 not 3.9. So, for every abducted child, there are almost 80 thousand whose chance of dying from obesity or while in their parents’ car is significantly reduced. Also, they’ll probably do their own laundry in college.

NYCRoe October 23, 2009, 12:02 PM


Statistics on child abduction

The latest statistics on child abduction, according to the United States Justice Department’s 2002 revealed some unsettling child abduction facts:

•On average, 2,185 children under the age of 18 were reported missing each day of the study year.
•That adds up to more than 797,500 children annually.
•An estimated 58,200 were abducted by someone other than a family member.

NYCRoe October 23, 2009, 12:29 PM

Do a search for “Today Show, How to Protect Children From Predators” It is a really good article and with tips from an FBI profiler on not only how to prevent abduction but a lot of things to teach children to do in the event it were to happen.

Anna October 23, 2009, 12:36 PM

I have worked on 7 child murder cases at the hands of sexual predators in my jurisdiction. There are others being worked in other jurisdictions by other task force members. What you see on the news is what makes it on the news. By no means representative of what actually happens in small towns around the country. Three of the murders were at the hands of strangers (1 was a registered sex offender and the other two were non-registered) and the other four were people the child knew (school crossing guard, uncle, grocery store clerk, and pastor). Yes, I do work on an agency task force that operates nationally. I work child murders but the cases of child rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse are so many that they require multi-agency staffed units nationwide. The common thread in all of those cases? Lack of responsible parental supervision. I have a 6 year old and a four year old. It’s really hard especially with the demands of my job. Neither my husband nor I can afford not to work as much as we’d love to. My daughter’s school is less than a mile away. Every morning, one of us will take her to school. Would we ever let her walk there by herself? Not a chance.

JaneJane October 23, 2009, 12:46 PM

@NYCRoe—if you’re going to find stats, please report ALL of what you find. Here’s the rest of the story from the US Justice Dept from a press release issued in 2002:

“Fortunately, the number of serious child abductions in the United States is not on the rise. There were approximately 58,200 “non-family abductions” in 1999 where children were forcibly moved or detained for a relatively short period of time. Ninety-nine percent of these children returned home safely. Only 115 of all non-family abductions were the most serious and dangerous types of abductions - those perpetrated by strangers where the child was kept overnight, held for ransom or killed. Approximately 56 percent of these children were returned home. Tragically, in 40 percent of these cases, the child was killed. In another four percent, the child has never been found.”

115 child abductions of the serious and dangerous kind and of those 56% (or 64 children) were returned home.

NYCRoe October 23, 2009, 1:09 PM

I got my stats from a web article, just copied & pasted. I’m sure there are a ton of different articles that list those stats with either more or less stated. Either way, the numbers are there- it does happen. It’s a gamble on who is going to be a part of that minority. There is no way to predict when or where a predator will strike. If we could then none of us would let it happen, obviously. So since we don’t know, we have to take precautions.

protectkidz October 23, 2009, 2:40 PM

I’m pretty surprised at the number of people who have popped up on this website today, doing their best to crucify those parents who prefer to walk their children to school everyday.

Apparently, The FreeRange Folks equate walking kids to school with not allowing your 12 year old to wipe their own bottom.

Whatever.

Hey JaneJane - all of our children run the risk of being one those 115, and an even greater risk of being one of the 52,000. How long do you think it takes (time-wise) to rape a 7 year old child? Most sex offenders are NOT killers - but they will put their hands on your child if they see that your child has no one with him/her. How nice to consider your 10 year old daughter having to fend off the roaming hands of an adult man - and her mother is nowhere near. No protection.

I prefer to protect my children as much as I can, while still teaching them to be independent and take care of themselves.

And, as rare as it is, another one of the 115 was murdered this week. 2 in one week.

Elizabeth Olten. Age 9.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iL2APTMLoOIa6NBqXxEd_DKqAkDQD9BH1RUO0

protectkidz October 23, 2009, 2:47 PM

also, abduction really is rare - but molestation is NOT. The statistics can not protect you in re: molestation, because they will never be accurate. This is a crime that causes shame to the victim, and many times goes unreported. So, next time you let your underage daughters “free-range” around the local mall or another public place, ask yourself: how will she protect herself when Joe Blow rubs up against her? How will that make her feel? Because, statistically, 6 out of 10 girls and 4 out of 10 boys will be sexually molested at least once during their childhood. And, of course, those statistics are based on number of cases reported. God, it’s like playing Russian Roulette.

NYCRoe October 23, 2009, 2:57 PM

Absolutely right, preotectkidz. Take into consideration that janejane quoted:
58,200 “non-family abductions” in 1999 where children were forcibly moved or detained for a relatively short period of time-Ninety-nine percent of these children returned home safely.

So the 99% that were “forcibely moved or detained” and were returned- it was no big deal they were likely molested, raped, traumatized, then?

protectkidz October 23, 2009, 3:05 PM

several years ago, I was at a popular waterpark in California with my hubby and kids. I was waiting for them to come down the plume of a huge ride. While waiting, I noticed a gentleman in a wheelchair apparently also waiting for his group to come down. While I watched he picked up a professional-looking camera from his lap and starting taking shots of a raft of young pre-teen girls coming down the plume. They were laughing and screamings - having a blast. I expected that they would come right over to him as soon as they got off their raft, but instead they went over to a man and woman standing off to the side. I looked again at the man in the wheelchair and he was lowering his camera and starting to turn away from the girls. I went right over to the mother of those girls and told her that the wheelchair man was taking photos of her girls. He was unable to explain himself to park security. His film was removed from the camera and he was removed from the park. You don’t have to stifle your children, but as the adult it is YOUR respeonsibility to protect them so that they can continue to have a long, healthy, happy life. No statistics on child porn as of yet. Impossible to accurately track.

Krolik October 23, 2009, 4:29 PM

protectkidz,

So, you were in a public place full of kids, and you did what any good neighbor does when he or she sees kids in trouble - you intervened. They were not your kids, but you did it anyway. Because of people like you, that park was a safer place for children whether they had the benefit of their parents’ direct supervision or not.

I don’t believe that anyone in the “free range camp” suggests that we let our children walk alone through dark alleys. But there is no reason why children cannot walk to school, to the library or to the corner store in the middle of the day like they used to 30 years ago. The more children start doing this, and the more adults make a point of walking to the store instead of driving, the safer we will all be - from criminals, diabetes, or vitamin D deficiency.

Yes, even in public our children will face unpleasant situations. They may be bullied. They may also be flashed or propositioned. Joe Blow might rub up against them on the bus. But if adults (and other children) around them know to react in the way you reacted at the waterpark, that chance is significantly reduced. Also, I have never heard of a child being seriously traumatized by a flasher. It has happened to me a number of times growing up. It has happened to most of my friends. I believe the usual response is to run away giggling. Finally, learning to handle such situations - bullying as well as unwanted sexual advances - is an important part of growing up. A child who never had to deal with a situation like that on their own will be ill-equipped to handle the real world.

Dorothy October 25, 2009, 10:10 AM

I’ve been reading the postings and I just had to say something. This sounds again like the endless debate of whether being a stay at home mom is better than a working mom or vice versa. I am one of those mothers who is in the over protective end of the spectrum. A few of my friends are at the other end where they think experience is the better teacher and some are in between. I look at my friends that allow more than I do for my children and it makes me consider whether I am too protective. Sometimes I take the chance and allow my daughter more privileges and sometimes not. The deciding factor is often whether I can live with the anxiety. Before you tell me I am thinking of myself, the anxiety is my barometer of whether I feel the situation is safe. It is the only final decider I have. Each person has a different barometer. We shouldn’t say things like, “I would never..” and “they should find other options…” It isn’t for any of us to call the shots for another parent. I am just trying to get my children to adulthood in one piece and with as much self reliance and self esteem that I can. My daughter is actually very self reliant even though she has an overprotective mom. My friend’s daughter (my friend is very permissive) is also just as self reliant as my daughter but not more than. We as mothers know our own children and have no idea the abilities and strengths of other peoples children. We need to support each other and check our postings to make sure we are implying judgement of others. We all need as much support as we can get from each other. This is a very difficult world we live in and I really don’t believe any of us have all the answers. We are just trying to get through this as best we can.

Good luck to all of you. We need it.

Krolik October 25, 2009, 9:18 PM

Dorothy,

Well said. Thank you.

Page  October 26, 2009, 6:38 PM

OK, First of all not one person here as written that Somer was walking home with her twin brother and a Sister, not by herself. She ran ahead of them and the sicko grab her.She could of ran ahead with her mother with her too that day. Somer has most likely ran ahead like that a zillions times before because she felt safe. she should feel safe in her neighborhood. I lived in Jax and Clay county is a small area I can relate to her mother allowing this. Not all of us had help and family close by.

No body is to blame and It time to concentrate on catching the killer, not what she could of or should of done.
thank you

God Bless Somer and her family!!

page October 26, 2009, 6:41 PM

Sorry I didnt see the other posts that has mentioned her being with her brother and sister. My apologies !!

thank you


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