Mero Moment: The Nanny State


In this week’s Mero Moment, Paul Mero discusses the out-of-control nanny state, referring to the story of a South Jordan woman who was cited by police with endangering her child after she let the young boy walk to and from school after the Jordan School District discontinued busing to her home.

The full text of this week’s Mero Moment is available after the break.

In a story somewhat related to this topic, when the Cache County School District stopped providing busing to a Smithfield school, parents there purchased a school bus and started their own bus service.

Full text of this week’s commentary:

This week I want to talk about our out-of-control nanny state. Perhaps you heard about this story last week: A mom in South Jordan, in Salt Lake Valley, was given a citation and fingerprinted by a local police officer for having her 5-year-old walk home from school each day.

The little fellow, Noah Talbot, walks to school with his older brother but has to walk home alone because his kindergarten class is only half-day. His mom, Rosella, dresses him in an orange vest and helmet for safety, has his teachers and school administrators on speed dial, and has done all she can think of doing to make sure little Noah gets home safely.

Noah is one of six children and his mom has no way of getting the kids to school on her own, so they walk. The Jordan School District cut the bus routes that used to accommodate this family, and it doesn’t plan on reinstating them, so the Talbot kids are left with walking.

The citation was the result of an officer spotting little Noah by himself and judging that he ought not to walk home from school alone – that he’s too young and that he has to cross a pretty busy street along the way. The citation is for neglect, and its issuance is no small thing. Being cited, Rosella now isn’t allowed to be involved in many children’s activities such as scouts. Evidently, she no longer can be trusted.

I think she can be trusted. In fact, it sounds to me like she’s an exemplary mom.

If I’m left to wonder about elements in this story, I first wonder why the district can’t get bus service to Noah. South Jordan isn’t some out-of-the-way, podunk town – it’s in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley, for heaven’s sake. School districts, like any government agency, are very predictable when it comes to dealing with budget shortages. Most government agencies know exactly how to play the public relations game: They always cut essential services before they even attempt to cut bureaucracy so that citizens will take the side of the agency in political battles. It’s a nasty game and, like in this case, good people can get hurt.

Second, did the officer really have to give Mrs. Talbot a citation? I can see where an officer, using reasonable judgment, could see a little boy walking alone and wondering why he isn’t with someone. What I find really difficult to see is why the officer didn’t simply drop off Noah at his home, inquire into the situation, and then leave it alone? Does a citation fix the Talbots’ transportation dilemma? No. Is Mrs. Talbot going to receive a daily citation? Because I can assure you that Noah is going to school every day.

Lastly, while I understand that the world is becoming increasingly dangerous for our children, I have to tell you – and this is not a policy opinion – I’m wondering why we seem to be in everyone’s business? Whose child is Noah? Mrs. Talbot’s or society’s? Does Noah belong to the public school system?

I walked to my elementary school every day. My mom didn’t strap me into an orange helmet and safety vest. I guess my mom was extremely negligent. Or she was simply a normal mom not caught in an era of hyper-sensitivity and concern. The only kids in my neighborhood wearing helmets were the ones who were already afflicted with some ailment.

Mrs. Talbot’s dilemma is a sign that government and society are out of control. Are we really seeking an antiseptic world where no harm befalls anyone? If that’s the case, our government should register as a religion and then they can justifiably preach for the repeal of the Fall of Man. Until then, maybe everyone ought to chill out a bit and try real hard to mind their own business.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.