WHEN PRESIDENT Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, he was also signing into law the first federal free-range kids legislation. An amendment added by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) states that "nothing in this Act shall...prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission; or expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate."
The provision doesn't preempt state or local laws, so there's still wiggle room for governors or municipal leaders to criminalize parents who trust their kids to walk to school (or who sleep through them doing so). But the law is a start.
Lee did not end up voting for the larger bill, but he enthusiastically supports the free-range kids clause. "Our amendment protecting parents who allow their kids to walk to school is definitely a silver lining," he says. "Unsupervised moments are a huge part of how children learn, grow, and build the skills that prepare them for the rigors of citizenship and the adventure of adult life. America faces great challenges today. Kids walking to school with their parents' permission is not one of them."