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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 27th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
It looks like the parenting police are out in full force and ready to report moms and dads to the police and/or Child Protective Services at the drop of a diaper.  We all know about the “mandated reporters” that, by law, permeate society.  Anyone associated with education is required to report to child welfare authorities anything that might possibly indicate child abuse or neglect.  Are Andy’s clothes dirty?  He may be neglected.  Does Jenny have a bruise?  Could be abuse.

Of course those trivial matters may not spur a teacher, teacher’s aide, principal, etc. to grab the red phone to CPS, but they might.  That’s because the consequences to the adult of not reporting can be dire.  A teacher can lose her job for failure to report possible abuse or neglect.  Physicians, hospital employees, police and others are also mandatory reporters.

So the fact is, if a child sets foot in public, the chances of his/her falling under the watchful gaze of the parenting police are pretty good.  If the word ‘Stasi’ came to your mind, you’re not alone.

But this article tells us that there’s far more to the parental surveillance state than just those mandated reporters (The Oregonian, 9/26/12).  There are plenty of freelancers as well.

It seems an Oregon mother brought her four or five year old son to the Bridgeport Village Regal Cinema near Portland a couple of days ago to see the R-rated movie “End of Watch.”  That so enraged Hollywood producer/director Stephen Simon, who was also attending the movie, that he reported the woman to Child Protective Services.  The movie contains scenes depicting violence and apparently, to Simon, that meant he could substitute his parental decisions for those of the mother.

“I thought, this is child abuse,” Simon said, adding that he confronted the mother about how he felt.

Just what the mother said to Simon goes unreported, but apparently she wasn’t sufficiently cowed by him, so he fled to CPS.  They weren’t interested either.

But according to Child Protective Services, it is not abuse to bring a youngster to a violent flick. The agency considers it a “values call” for the parent and not an act of child endangerment. There was nothing it could do, Simon was told by the woman who answered the agency’s phone.

But Simon isn’t satisfied.

Simon has not given up. He will urge theater owners to warn parents with kids in tow about movies containing violence or profanity.

Hmm.  Actually, they already do.  That’s what that R rating is all about.  Here’s the definition of the R category according to the Motion Picture Association of America:

R — Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.

You’d think a Hollywood producer/director would know that.

In short, the mother exercised her own judgment about whether her son should see the movie in question.  She decided it would be OK, a decision the theater was bound to respect.  She violated no law save the one Stephen Simon invented in the close confines of his own mind.

More and more, children are seen by the state – and by those who see the state as the solution to all problems, real or imagined – as the all-purpose excuse for intervention into family life.  Child welfare authorities act with little or no oversight by other governmental agencies and they routinely stonewall press inquiries into their actions (or inactions).  Often as not, that secrecy violates state disclosure laws.  CPS commonly punishes parents who assert their constitutional rights – like the right to be free from searches or seizures without a warrant, the right to counsel, etc.  Caseworkers go to bat for one parent and against another in custody battles, often for the most minor of offenses.  Did Mom take a nap and let little Andy or Jenny find a way out of the house?  Did she decide, in consultation with the child’s pediatrician, to take the child off a certain medication?  That’s what Detroit resident Maryanne Godboldo did and it netted her a visit from the SWAT team and the loss of her child for many weeks while the full extent of CPS’s denials of due process and abandonment of common sense came to light.

Family breakdown has been seen by many, not as tragedy, but as opportunity, an open door to governmental control of the minutiae of parental decision-making.  Three years ago, a Canadian dad with custody of his 12 year old daughter had the temerity to ground her for violation of his rules about Internet use.  A court overruled his decision, saying it was too harsh.  I’m sure the next time the girl needs advice about whether to go out with a particular boy or help with her math homework, the judge will be on call to play substitute dad.  After all, the father wouldn’t want to make any decision that might be second-guessed by the state.

And it turns out there are plenty of people with nothing better to do than to abet the state in one of the greatest power grabs in history.  Stephen Simon is one of those, but only one.  Meanwhile, parents find themselves navigating everyday life as if it were a minefield.

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