A Reminder About Stranger Danger

Last week was a busy, stressful mess around here. I wasn’t in a writing frame of mind, although I saw many news stories that would usually prompt me to write. There was one story that haunted me all week long. “Mom Irate After 5 Year Old Picked Up From School By Stranger.” Stranger Danger kept echoing in my mind.

All week long, I kept thinking these two things.

1. Could this happen at my kids’ school?

2. Could this happen to one of my boys?

You may have heard this story. Great Grandpa goes to the school to pick up his grandson – let’s call him Billy. Grandpa follows the school’s procedure by going to the office, showing ID and signing Billy out. It’s the end of the day; Billy is already outside waiting to get on the bus.

The school, lacking a solid stranger danger policy, tells Grandpa to go out to the bus area and pick Billy up. In a sea of chaos with kids bundled up in coats and hats, he finally finds Billy, tells him that his mom is sick, so he’s picking him up. When they get to Grandpa’s house, Billy won’t get out of the car. Grandpa goes inside to get Grandma; When they come out and take off Billy’s hat, they discover it’s not Billy at all. Instead they have a frightened little Johnny.

This story has bothered me for days. If you are a parent, if you have an active imagination, or worse yet, if you are like me and fall into both categories, you can imagine 50 different ways this could have been disastrous. This time, it wasn’t. It was honestly the case of a Grandpa making an innocent mistake.


What I keep thinking though is “why did that kid get into the car with a stranger?” There were teachers, bus drivers and other students around. Sure, the old man told this kid his mom was sick, so the kid was supposed to go home with him…and the kid did. No protest. No verifying with a known adult. No stranger danger warning going off in Billy’s head. This is what scares me more than anything else.

For me, this was a reminder that I hadn’t talked to my kids about stranger danger for a while. A reminder will never hurt. I think my boys know enough to not go with a stranger, but I want to make sure. I used this as an opportunity for me to talk to them, go through some scenarios , and try to beat into their heads to never go with a stranger.

Stranger Danger

This mistake was allowed to happen due to poor policies on the school’s part. No one made sure the right kid was picked up. They left it up to a stranger to go pick up whichever kid, or even how many kids they wanted to pick up. In fact, the school didn’t know there was a problem until Grandma called and told them what happened. The school workers then told the grandparents to just bring Johnny back to school.

The school then dropped the ball again. Johnny’s older siblings got off the bus at their house, and of course, Johnny wasn’t with them. I’m sure Johnny’s mom was frantic when she called the school. It was only then that the school told her of the mistake. After Grandpa got back to the school with Johnny, the school put him on an empty bus and took him home, just like it was business as usual.

The school is responsible for keeping our kids safe, and this schools lack of solid stranger danger policies was the problem. I understand they are in the process of changing their policies. I just think we should all use this as the learning opportunity.

For just a second, consider the following questions for yourself, and remind friends and family to consider them as well.

  • Could this happen at your child’s school?
  • Does your child’s school have solid procedures in place so something like this, or something much more sinister, can’t happen?
  • Could a stranger be convincing enough that your child would willingly go with them?

Stranger danger is a reality. Poor policies at schools are sometimes a reality as well. Being proactive now may prevent a horrifying situation later.





18 Thoughts on “A Reminder About Stranger Danger

  1. Ugh, I have a pit in my stomach hearing that. I do tell my kids about strangers. I am a bit neurotic, but a product of what happens when a parent isn’t watching.
    For this reason I drive my son to preschool and pick him up…also to any off the school ground activities. Since his speech is delayed a bit he wouldn’t be able to explain being lost, I just for the life of cannot send him on the bus knowing that.

    My daughter was dropped off not once but twice at the wrong stop in Kindergarten. I had to run after the bus when they passed our stop with her on it. It’s become a running joke, but I was livid and got the bus system to drop her off right at the house.

    Now I need a sedative,lol!
    Melissa recently posted…10 Ways to Change-Up Your WorkoutMy Profile

    • Oh my goodness, Melissa. That is insane. I’ve always taken my kids to school and picked them up as well. There was one time at the beginning of the year when my 5 year olds class came out and he wasn’t with them. It was walk a thon day, so I knew tons of extra adults were at the school. I jumped out of the car and asked his teacher if he was in the bathroom or something. She said he probably was in the bus line and went out to check. It was all I could do to not flip out. Sure enough, he was safe and sound by the buses. It was scary, though nothing compared to what this mom and dad went through.
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…A Reminder About Stranger DangerMy Profile

  2. Talking with our kids about these kinds of things is so important–and it doesn’t just apply to when they’re little. I still talk to my kids about things like this and they’re 13 and 14. Now add in technology stuff for them and my head could about blow off because I’m like you–a parent with an active imagination! :/
    Real Life Parenting recently posted…You Might Be an Asshat if You Think People With Food Allergies Are Ruining Your LifeMy Profile

  3. OMG it is so scarey! I can happen anywhere and at any time. Even when they are suppose to be safe at school. Any parents nightmare!

  4. Doug in Oakland on March 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm said:

    Shouldn’t the correct child have been paged to the office when Grandpa was signing in? Or someone on staff sent to get the child? Or maybe they don’t have anyone on staff who can do things like that, did I mention that we should fund our schools better?
    Time and geography make all the difference, I suppose, but it seems like that’s what would have happened at the schools I attended. Which were in Eureka, Ca. (pop 25K) and began in 1966 when I started kindergarten at a county school even more rural-ish than the Eureka city schools. I rode the school bus until I got my first bicycle (first grade) and never rode it again. We would get rides to school from my mother if it was raining too bad, but mostly we walked or biked to and from school, as did most of our classmates. I (and my parents) had it good. I was going to say “lucky” but that would be selling my parents short: they knew just what they were doing when they moved us to those 5 acres at the foot of Humboldt Hill in ’64 when I was 3 and my sister was 7.
    We were taught to be cautious, but stranger-danger isn’t as big of a deal where there are few strangers.
    Now, when I feel sad for the modern/urban children growing up with substantially less freedom than I enjoyed, I try to make myself think of, say, the girls growing up in Pakistan/Afghanistan who are routinely brutalized for the crime of wanting to go to school at all.
    This story, though, seems like a failure of the school to properly supervise their students. A 5 year old at school shouldn’t be required to tell which adults to obey and which ones to reject. And here’s where I fully cop out and say how glad I am that I never wanted children.

    • Doug, I agree that there are many different ways this could/should have been handled. I know in my boys’ school the office would page the kid to come to the office. Right kid, right parent/adult.

      Personally, I take my kids to school and pick them up. I only live a mile away, so it isn’t a big deal for me.

      However, stranger danger (yeah, that’s what they really call it these days) is terrifying to a parent – or at least to me. I would hope if the school dropped the ball somewhere and some stranger told some story to either of my boys they would call bullshit.

      My worst fear that something would happen to them. That’s why I wrote something that was somewhat atypical for me. It’s certainly not my most popular post and not my best written post, but it addresses a fear I have, so I needed to write about it.

      I intentionally live in a small town. It’s a great place for kids. But no place is completely safe these days. It is a big responsibility for a 5 year old. I don’t blame the kid, I don’t blame the parents, I don’t even blame the Grandpa, the blame rests entirely on the school. However, that’s something that wouldn’t matter if the situation had a different outcome.

      Wow. Guess I had a few more things to get off my chest there…perhaps too much mom and not enough Bitch & Whine in this one. :)
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…A Reminder About Stranger DangerMy Profile

      • Doug in Oakland on March 3, 2014 at 10:38 pm said:

        Too much mom? Not at all. I see parenthood as an awesome responsibility, one I’ve never felt even close to being up to… I can’t properly take care of myself and the adults I love (but have no other responsibility to that that) so how could I presume to be able to raise a child? So I can feel, if maybe not fully understand your fear for their safety.
        As for the post? Let me drag it back towards politics a little then:
        There, now I got that off of MY chest. Well, almost. See, the public schools in California in the 1960s that I was lucky enough to attend were on the forefront of good education at the time for two reasons (mostly):
        We, as a country, really cared about such things right about then (see: cold war, space race) and also it was, until 1973, before the so called tax revolt that brought a thing called proposition 13 that sent our high flying schools into a tail spin they have yet to fully recover from. I want every kid to have at least what I had. Selling the children short is the ultimate in short-sightedness for any people, right?

        • Oh my! I’m tired of the schools being under funded and these brilliant politicians decide to keep cutting the funding. As a society we go along with it. Parents are relied on to volunteer in the classroom and bring in most of the school supplies the kids will be using throughout the year.

          Meanwhile, at the schools they spend all their time teaching to a test at the end of the year. Teachers don’t have the time or flexibility to make learning fun or to add in fun but educational activities that may solidify the concepts kids are learning.
          Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…A Reminder About Stranger DangerMy Profile

  5. I find this to be a very tricky subject. While I do talk to my kids about strangers, I also don’t want them to believe all grown ups are untrustworthy. I emphasize to my 6 year old especially to never go anywhere with a stranger no matter what that person tells him. I explain to him that if there’s ever an emergency, either Daddy, one of his brothers, or I will be there. Would he follow that if it came down to it? I have no idea.
    I believe one of the main problems is that children have been taught to not question authority and that all adults are the authority. What’s your opinion on that?
    Missy Homemaker recently posted…So Long Sam’s ClubMy Profile

    • I agree that we beat into our kids heads to respect and listen to adults. Then we tell them that they can’t always listen to adults. We tell them not to take candy from strangers, then take them trick-or-treating on Halloween. We are full of contradictions, then expect them to make the right choices. I want my boys to be friendly and social, but then we tell them to not talk to strangers…but don’t give them clear guidelines on if they can talk to a cashier at a grocery store or a waiter at a restaurant.
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…A Reminder About Stranger DangerMy Profile

  6. I agree this is an important subject and one we should re-visit with our kids over and over. I’ve had the discussion with them several times, but I’ll admit, it’s usually after hearing about incidents like this. The more we discuss this, the less it will happen.
    Emily recently posted…Big Dude Is Learning To Drive…Everyone Take Cover!My Profile

    • I agree. The more we talk about it, the better chance we have that kids will know what to do. I think many people only talk about it when they hear a story like this, which was why I felt I needed to pass it along with the reminder. Many of us probably don’t talk with our kids enough about it.
      Rhonda @Bitch & Whine recently posted…Poor Little Rich GirlMy Profile

  7. I didn’t hear this one, thankfully it was an honest mistake. I am so grateful my sons are adults, but now they have children of their own. Horrifying.
    Valentine Logar recently posted…Not StrongMy Profile

  8. Goose bumps… Luckily, I never had an incident with my daughter when she was growing up but stories like this make me cringe. Children can be easily intimidated by an adult, even if they know that they shouldn’t be getting in a car with one. That’s the hardest part to control.

    This is why I gave my daughter a cell phone the minute she started middle school. The instructions were clear: if something ddidn’t seem right or there was an emergency, she was to call me right away on my cell.
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    • I used to think that giving kids cell phones was crazy! Now that I have two boys, I can see the usefulness, even just as a safety measure. This is the kind of thing we can’t really prepare our children fully for, however, we can’t hide from it either. I think we can only bring it up and hope something sticks if they are ever in a situation where they might need it.
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