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Stranger danger and donuts: one school's (over) reaction

Stranger danger is something every parent thinks about--who is my child talking to when I'm not around. But sometimes, an offer of a free donut is simply that, as one school found out, albeit not before scaring its parents.

By Contributor / April 24, 2012



Hi Readers! This is the kind of story that makes me bite off little pieces of my own arm in frustration (almost. Ok, let’s just say it makes me nuts.)

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Guest blogger

Lenore Skenazy is “America’s Worst Mom.” (Google it!) The New York City columnist-turned-reality show host got that title after letting her 9-year-old son take the subway alone. In response to the media blowback, she founded the book and blog, “Free-Range Kids,”  launching the anti-helicopter parenting movement. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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An elementary school in Toledo, Ohio sent home a note that said a stranger had been speaking to some of the students at a popular bakery on their way to school.  According to this story on WTOL:

The letter said, “The situation is now in the hands of the police. Fortunately for us today, all of our children are safe.”

The letter also tells parents to remind their kids to report suspicious people. Parents were shocked.

“That makes me nervous. I want my kids to come to school and be safe,” said Gail Hodson, a Harvard Elementary parent.

Excuse me, ma’am, are you shocked by the idea that your kid might someday encounter an adult male you did not personally vet first? Maybe it’s time to move to another planet.

But wait – the story gets a little weirder. Turns out that the man is a regular at the bakery and it was when he was there that he offered some kids some donuts.

Pretty terrifying!

School administrators left those facts out,  and defended themselves later by saying that the alarm was, if nothing else, a “teachable moment, and they sent the letter home to be proactive, before misinformation spread.”

Um…doesn’t that sound like exactly what they made happen? This letter WAS the misinformation, and the school spread it! As far as teachable moments go, this one taught kids to be suspicious, scared and unfriendly no matter how unwarranted. Worst-first thinking in action!

Then again,  just maybe it taught them that their school has gone absolutely ape with fear and can’t tell the difference between a sweetroll  and Sweeney Todd. If so, that letter has done some good. – L

Addendum: While we’re on the subject of stranger danger, here’s another little tidbit: A man in a van asking a little girl if she’d seen his puppy turns out to have been (sit down) looking for his puppy. Here’s the story. Weird, right?

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lenore Skenazy blogs at Free-Range Kids.

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