Utah lawmakers pass ‘free-range kids’ bill to say that kids playing or walking to school alone don’t mean parents are neglectful

A “free-range kids” bill won final approval Wednesday to clarify that it is not a crime for parents to allow mature children with good judgment to do such things by themselves as walk to school, play outside or stay in a car while parents are away.

The House voted 66-0 to pass SB65 to allow that. The Senate earlier passed it 25-0. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his possible signature.

The bill by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, redefines neglect in state law to allow such unsupervised activities — but says that children must be mature enough to handle them without hurting themselves.

“This is to prevent in Utah a problem that has happened in too many other states … where parents have been prosecuted, gotten in trouble for doing nothing more than allowing a child to play outside or go to the park,” said Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, the House sponsor of the bill. “It hasn’t happened in this state, and this bill seeks to ensure it never will.”

Daw said it strikes a proper balance so that it will not interfere with protecting children who are truly abused or neglected.

“If there are clear signs of abuse, obviously that is grounds for action, and in no way is excluded,” he said.