Friday, February 20, 2015

2 Teenagers Were Eager to Shovel Snow. Then the Police Paid a Visit.

 So much for entrepreneurial spirit....

From the New York Times

One evening last month, the night before a blizzard that threatened the Northeast with a lot of bluster, two young men in central New Jersey decided to take action.

Armed with about 100 fliers, Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf, both 18 and seniors at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, went door to door in Bridgewater and then headed to Bound Brook, a neighboring town of about 10,000, to offer snow-shoveling services for a reasonable price the following day.
The ensuing combination of neighborhood vigilance, community policing, social media, local and national news coverage, libertarian ideology and the New Jersey Legislature swirled into an unexpected narrative about small-town living, or media fishbowls, or perhaps snowstorms.

After handing out about 40 fliers with their names and cellphone numbers, around 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 27, the two teenagers were stopped by police officers responding to a call that some suspicious characters were traipsing through yards, going door to door.

Mr. Molinari and Mr. Schnepf met the description and were told that soliciting without a permit was “technically illegal” according to a town ordinance, Mr. Molinari said. They were also violating the town’s travel ban, which had gone into effect at 5 p.m., six hours before the state’s.
The teenagers were not charged, or given a written citation.

“We weren’t trying to break the law, and we only knew about the state travel ban at 11 p.m.,” Mr. Molinari said.
Solicitation permits in the town can cost up to $200, and are valid for a year. Nonprofit groups are exempt from the fee but still have to apply for a permit before going door to door.
The ordinance does not apply to political campaigns, volunteer firefighters or real estate and insurance salesmen who have state licenses.
The officers told the snow shovelers to go home because the roads were not safe and said the teenagers could come back the next day if their services had been requested.
The snowfall did not live up to its billing, and so they got only two requests for shoveling, and made about $50 each.
Mike Bal, a town resident whose home the boys visited, saw the police stop the shovelers. After hearing the boys’ account of the police encounter, he took to the “Bound Brook NJ Events” Facebook page, a town-affiliated forum, to express his outrage.
“Are you kidding me? Our generation does nothing but complain about his generation being lazy and not working for their money,” Mr. Bal wrote on the page. “Here’s a couple kids who take the time to print up flyers, walk door to door in the snow and then shovel snow for some spending money. And someone calls the cops and they’re told to stop?”
Josh Schroeder, who runs the Facebook page, posted the boys’ flier, because he “wanted to help them make money.”
Both posts “went viral,” he said.
News media vans descended on the town; Glenn Beck talked about it, calling the situation a confrontation between young American entrepreneurship and the limits of an overly bureaucratic government.
Since the two shovelers had put their cellphone numbers on the flier, which had been published in USA Today along with an article (the flier has since been removed), Mr. Molinari and Mr. Schnepf kept their phones off for a while, they said, because they were getting hundreds of texts and calls from people who wanted to express their support or hire them for snow removal.
“It was meant to be a good deed,” Mr. Schroeder said of posting the flier on Facebook.
He said other news media outlets had skewed the story: “They twisted this into an antipolice thing,” he said. “It wasn’t the police’s fault — they were just doing their job.”
Michael Jannone, chief of the Bound Brook Police Department, said the verbal attacks on his department from outraged people across the country had been “vicious.”
“We’ve been called everything from fascists to Nazis to Gestapo,” Chief Jannone said.
“Our officers were never going to give them a ticket for that,” he added. “I can’t even count the number of times I’ve paid $5 for a cup of lemonade from a lemonade stand — I didn’t tell those kids to get a permit either.”
Chief Jannone said the danger from the storm was real: About three minutes after the officers had left the shovelers, their patrol car slid in the snow into a telephone pole, causing $11,000 worth of damage.
He also worried about the situation’s effect on community policing: “There are already disheartening relations between communities and police around the country, and then you have something like this. It doesn’t help.”
State Assemblyman Michael Doherty, a Republican whose district includes Bound Brook and Bridgewater, said he thought the law “sends young people the wrong message” when it came to hard work and entrepreneurship.
“People have been shoveling snow for their neighbors for decades, if not a few hundred years,” he said in a telephone interview. “A law like this just shows how overbearing government can be.”
So Mr. Doherty brought a bill before the Assembly this month, which stipulates that ordinances related to soliciting would not apply to snow-shoveling services offered within 24 hours of a predicted snowstorm.
In a statement about the bill, Mr. Doherty said, “We shouldn’t let government criminalize harmless childhood activities that were once rites of passage for tens of millions of American kids.”
Mr. Doherty is a frequent critic of Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican, on policy issues — “I’m probably his No. 1 critic that speaks publicly,” Mr. Doherty said — but he said he thought Mr. Christie would support something like this.
Mr. Christie’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday, the teenagers had another snow day and got back in business, shoveling about four inches of snow from two houses.
One of the houses where they had cleared snow, a two-story, light-blue home, belonged to Daphne Ruben, a special-education teacher at their high school. By the late afternoon, the driveway and sidewalks in front of the house were clear.
Ms. Ruben said she had heard about the teenagers’ encounter with the law from another teacher. And on this morning, she said, she phoned Mr. Molinari at 8:30 to ask if she could hire the duo.
Her husband had recently had surgery, and she could not shovel the snow herself. She said she paid the two, who used shovels and snow blowers, with a check for $50, and gave them hot chocolate and chocolate-chip cookies before they left for baseball practice.
The police were not involved.

Jason Grant contributed reporting.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Parents Under Investigation for Neglect After Allowing Kids to Walk to Playground

Rafi and Dvora Meitiv. Photo by Andrea McCarren/WUSA9

From Yahoo

A Maryland family is under investigation for child neglect this week after allowing their kids, ages 6 and 10, to walk together, but without adults, to neighborhood playgrounds.
“The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood,” mom Danielle Meitiv told the Washington Post. “I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.” Danielle, who grew up in the 1970s in New York City and was allowed to roam freely along with other neighborhood kids, told WUSA9, “The only thing that’s changed between then and now is our fear.”
But officials disagree. In late December, Montgomery County Police picked up the kids, Rafi and Dvora, walking just half a block from home after being alerted by an observer. Six cop cars soon showed up at the family’s house, and the incident spurred Montgomery County Child Protective Services to investigate Danielle and her husband Alexander for child neglect. This week, CPS officials visited the parents at home and also interviewed the children at school — without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
CPS spokesperson Mary Anderson told Yahoo Parenting she could not comment on the specifics of the case, but explained that CPS is bound by law to “follow up on every complaint” it receives, using the Maryland Unattended Children Law for guidance to determine whether a parent “has provided proper care and supervision.” But the law doesn’t address the outdoors, stating that a child under 8 must not be without someone 13 or older while “confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle.”
Danielle, a climate-science consultant and fiction writer, and Alexander, a physicist at the National Institutes for Health, could not be reached by Yahoo Parenting. But Danielle recently told Reason via email that she and her husband have been left “frightened and confused” by the situation. She added, “We are good parents, educated professionals, and our children are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and academically successful. As difficult as it is for us to believe, all of these events occurred as the result of allowing our children to walk along public streets in the middle of the afternoon without our supervision. My husband grew up in the former Soviet Union. Now he wonders if we have to just go along with whatever the authorities want us to do. I keep reminding him that we have RIGHTS in this country and that neither the police nor the bureaucrats can arbitrarily dismiss them.”
The Meitivs consider themselves “free-range parents,” basing some of their parenting philosophy on the book “Free-Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy (author of the Reason article), Danielle contacted Skenazy for advice and help with publicity in December.
“I agree that sunshine is a great thing when something is going on in the shadows,” Skenazy, whose new reality show “World’s Worst Mom” premiers on Discovery Life on Jan. 22, tells Yahoo Parenting. She has a clear take on the situation — and many others like it, including a Texas mom investigated by child protective services after allowing her 6-year-old to play alone across the street from home in September, a Florida mom arrested for allowing her 7-year-old to walk to the park alone in August, and a South Carolina mom arrested for letting her 9-year-old play alone in a park in July. “We believe our children are in constant danger,” Skenazy says. “Once you believe that, then seeing a child unsupervised for any amount of time…will look like negligence, even when it’s absolutely rational and loving, as it is [with the Meitivs].”
She blames the cultural shift on “a 24-7 media cycle has to appall and scare us” and “a marketplace that’s bent on scaring us,” using major fears like “kidnapping” and “kids not getting into Harvard” to sell parents just about anything.
A much-buzzed-about article in the Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid,” touched on many of these issues in April, noting, “It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s — walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap — are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.”
Tim Gill, the UK-based author of “Rethinking Childhood,” finds this attitude worrisome. “The basic danger is that by overprotecting children, we leave them less safe — because we deprive them of the very experiences that will build their confidence and help them learn how to deal with everyday challenges as they grow up,” he tells Yahoo Parenting in an email. He agrees with Skenazy that scaremongering is largely to blame (despite crime stats showing that children are safer than they’ve ever been), along with fear of lawsuits and a “zero risk” mindset, or a belief that “it’s our job to protect children at all costs rather than to help them to be resilient.” That belief has a particularly strong hold in the U.S., he says, noting that, in other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, it’s practically the opposite.
“I’ve been told that in Switzerland,” says Gill, “parents are judged badly if they DON’T let their children walk to kindergarten (yes, kindergarten) on their own.”

Just another item that is contributing to the fall of modern society as we know it.....
Both your and my parents would have been arrested and hauled off to jail. We would have be assigned to some foster family , you know the rest.
I guess that the more regulation they put on, the more true it becomes that the state is raising your children....