While Maria Hasankolli was sleeping, her 8-year-old stepson decided that he’d trek the two miles to school after he missed the bus instead of waking her up.
When a business owner on his route noticed him, though, he called police, and when officers went to the family’s home, Hasankolli was fast asleep. Now the Connecticut stepmom has been arrested and charged with risk of injury to a minor child… for oversleeping, and her story has shocked parents across the country.
Kids walking to school is not a new thing — in fact, driving kids to school is kind of a new thing when compared to modes of transport in the past. In modern times, it’s definitely more rare, but kids can and do still walk to school. Yes, two miles is not a short distance by any means, but have 8-year-old kids been capable of walking that distance to school in the past? Yes. And can they do it now? Yes.
In fact, there is no federal maximum or minimum distance for walks to school, and many districts do not provide busing to kids who live within a certain number of miles to the school building (that number varies from district to district).
The route this child took to school may not have been ideal, but a smart and capable child (certainly one who was able to get himself up, fed and out the door on a school morning) should have no trouble staying out of traffic.
The question, then, is — should we be afraid to let our kids walk to school? If a business owner notices a child walking alone at a time when kids are normally walking to school (even if the area is not typically trafficked by schoolkids wearing backpacks) and feels the need to call the police, are we ever really safe?
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducts a survey on the travel habits of homes in the U.S. called the National Household Travel Survey. The last time the survey was conducted, 2009, showed a startling difference between how kids got to school in 1969 compared to modern kids. For example, in 1969, only 15 percent of kids traveled to school in a private vehicle, but in 2009, half of all kids did. By contrast, over 40 percent of kids walked to school in 1969, and in 2009, fewer than 20 percent biked or walked to school.
Distance to the school is definitely a factor. In 1969, more kids lived within a mile of their school than they do today, but due to today’s larger school districts, nearly 60 percent of kids live two miles (or more) away from school.
That said, while parents probably should be awake to send a child off to school, oversleeping happens, and we shouldn’t be wary of our kids walking down the street to catch the bus or walking to school without us.
But just to be safe, it doesn’t hurt to have your kid pair up with a pal or to have an emergency plan in place if they feel they need to deviate from their regular plans — and most of all, set your alarms.