Kaplan and Dunleavy: Let Teaneck Grow

My children are young and I want to have a hand in shaping the future of the town where they grow up. We have benefited from the great opportunities Teaneck has made available to residents. Whether it is an activity at the Rodda center or the library, Teaneck Junior Soccer League or other events, there are and have always been options available for my family. And it’s the spirit of “giving back” that has led me to volunteer my time for the Township. Having three kids, the parks and recreation facilities in Town are quite a large part of our family’s life. We moved to Teaneck in part, for these programs and the commitment to open space Teaneck values.

Let Children Play

As my children start to grow into independence, our oldest has started to ask to walk to the park alone.  When is the right time to start allowing our kids to have that level of independence and who should be in charge of making those decisions?

Teaneck is hardly unique when it comes to this question and in some towns, merely allowing your children to walk to the park has led to arrests, the involvement of children’s services and worse.

I reached out to the Township Manager, the Chief of Police and the School Superintendent to determine how Teaneck deals with the issue of kids coming of age (and the parents ability to decide if they are old enough to venture out on their own).  The responses can be found here:
School Superindent Response
Police Chief Response

The short answer is that it’s up the good judgment of parents.

As a member of the PPRAB, we have heard about issues that have surfaced over the years, when students and children were accosted in parks by authorities and questions were raised as to whether they were permitted to be in the parks alone.

I made a motion, which was unanimously put forward to council to consider a change to the code which would enable parents, to be the ones that get to determine the age in which their children were mature enough to play unsupervised.

The proper role of government is to defer to parents.

If parents, in their role as custodian of their children, feel that their child is old enough to earn a degree of independence, we must defer to their decision.

“Children must learn to become independent problem-solvers in order to become responsible and capable citizens who can succeed and flourish in a free society.”

This doesn’t mean that police and other services cannot deal with legitimate and well founded cases where danger or neglect exists.  But it does mean that we should let borderline cases, in which judgment calls could be made, default to the will of parents.  I’m all for government incentivizing good behaviors.  But the proper role of government is to defer to parents.

Since the decision by the PPRAB to advise Council to create such an ordinance, Utah has created the first legislative code to enable this on a Statewide basis.  You can read about the efforts on the LetGrow website as well as the NYT.

We should foster our kids’ independence and their parents’ role in crafting it.  Children live in our world and it’s a very safe one (statistically, every crime metric is down from when we ourselves were kids).

If elected, I would put forward an ordinance similar to this one enabling parents to choose what is best for their children.

Let’s give our kids the same opportunity to play that we had growing up.  We all deserve that.

And our parks will be a better place for it.

Update: A few people have mentioned that “times were different back when we were kids. They are right:

2 thoughts on “Kaplan and Dunleavy: Let Teaneck Grow”

  1. Amen! If it was OK for us to go to the park alone in the 80s, it’s OK for today’s kids as well.

    1. As a father of three girls, I want them to grow up knowing what it means to be responsible and independent. We live in one of the safest times ever — it’s time to let our kids grow into mature responsible adults.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *