A Florida mom was arrested this week after letting her 7-year-old son walk to the park alone.
When Nicole Gainey's son Dominic asked for permission to make the 10-15 minute walk from their house to the nearby Sportsman's Park, she said yes, making sure that he had a cellphone so that she could check on him. "I honestly didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I was letting him go play," she told WPTV. Now she's facing a felony child neglect charge.
While making the half-mile journey to the park, Dominic was stopped near a public pool and asked several questions, including where his mother was. Frightened by all of the questions, he ran off to the park, and the strangers from the pool called the cops, Fox 4 News reports. The police picked up the boy while he was playing at the park and asked "Where does your mom live?"
The officers drove Dominic home, where they proceeded to arrest his mother for child neglect. They later stated in the police report that "numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity." Still, the mom told WPTV that she felt her son was mature enough to walk to the park alone. "I'm totally dumbfounded by this whole situation," she added.
If this story sounds familiar, it's because it's not the first time a parent has been arrested for allowing a child to go somewhere alone. Earlier this summer, mom Debra Harrell was arrested for "unlawful conduct toward a child" after letting her 9-year-old daughter play at the park while she worked her shift at McDonald's, and last year, an Ohio father became the subject of a Child Protective Services investigation after allowing his 6-year-old daughter to walk a few blocks to the post office by herself.
Lenore Skenazy, who wrote "Free Range Kids" and gives lectures around the world about "how we got so afraid for our children," spoke to The Huffington Post about this latest incident. "Are we supposed to lock all our children inside for their safety at all times, and then we're negligent child abusers if we don't?" she said. "The idea that there are predators everywhere is a false one," she added, noting that violent crime rates have dropped down to low levels not seen since the days before color TV and the time when gas only cost 29 cents per gallon. Skenazy also pointed out a study cited in an Economist article on sex offender laws in Georgia, which found that only 5 percent of the people on the registry posed an actual threat to children.
As for Nicole Gainey, she told WPTV that she plans to fight the felony charge, but that might not be necessary. The news network recently posted an update to the story online, noting that an official from the Florida Department of Children and Families told the mom she could "expect the case to be dropped."