17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, August 01, 2008

No Biking Allowed

Princess practiced all summer perfecting her 2-wheel bike riding skills. Last week we picked out the perfect pink bike lock. And today, she excitedly took her first bike ride to school while I jogged near her. She was a little nervous, but she made it and I was proud of her.

It looked like our plan to start ditching the car in favor of more biking and jogging was going to work great. Until I picked her up from school. When she told her teacher how excited she was that she rode her bike to school she was informed that she was not allowed to ride her bike to school until the fourth grade (she's in first). When I came to pick her up, I was informed of the same thing. "It's in the red parent's handbook. You probably haven't read it."

Oh, I read it. And I read the part about biking age, but I honestly assumed they meant no unaccompanied bike riding until the fourth grade. Guess I was wrong. Apparently it's a "district rule and it's for the safety of the students".

I am so bummed. So bummed that it is bordering on anger. With the national health crisis of overweight, unhealthy children and the nation dependency on foreign oil, I thought ditching the car and encouraging my family to get active was a good thing to do and now I feel like we just got slapped on the wrist.

Now, I just have to decide whether I want to let it go, buckle down and try to get the rule changed, or introduce Princess to civil disobedience.

Anyone else dealt with such rules?


  • I say fight it. I regularly ride my bike from home to work (13.2 miles on average, depending on the route I take), and I'm all for encouraging biking as an alternative to destroying the environment with cars, as an alternative to high gas prices, and as a healthy, active alternative to other, passive modes of transportation.

    This is a policy I'd be fighting.
    posted by Anonymous Paul P at 8/01/2008 03:30:00 PM  

  • I'd fight. I'd at least call the district and ask what's up. If they aren't even willing to consider that the energy crisis has changed some of the rules, then they really are stupid.

    At the VERY least, they should allow her to ride to school accompanied.
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 8/01/2008 03:31:00 PM  

  • Azucar - that's all I am asking - under 4th grade biking when accompanied. It doesn't seem that unreasonable. But everything in bureaucratic school districts seems to get complicated really fast.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/01/2008 03:35:00 PM  

  • I would fight this one hard because the school district should have no say over what you, the parent, can or can do with your child when you are off of school property.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 8/01/2008 04:04:00 PM  

  • Fight it. Fight it hard. Biking is a form of transportation like any other. The only difference is that there is a vehicle involved. So can they say less than fourth graders cannot walk to school? This is not right and you need to fight it. You tell the district they are wrong and don't let them tell you otherwise. Also, look around online and find similar situations so you have support for your case.
    posted by Blogger Angela at 8/01/2008 04:30:00 PM  

  • Is that even legal? I'm really surprised at such a policy, seeing as a school should not dictate what your child does when not in school.

    Last I checked, that was the PARENT'S responsibility. Hmmm . . .
    posted by Blogger Emily C at 8/01/2008 05:03:00 PM  

  • If you want to fight it, that's definitely your perogative, but this seems to be a fairly standard rule across the board. (I went to several different elementary schools across the US as a child due to a military upbringing, plus having had my own children in several different school systems.)

    In every system the rule was pretty consistently was No Bikes at school until grade 3 or 4.

    It was considered a priviledge to be able to bring your bike to school; a sign that you could handle the additional responsibility. I'm sure it seems like such a pointless rule, but I'm sure there is some person somewhere whothinks making a teenager wait until they're 16 or 17 to get their Driver's License is silly.

    Of course, it never hurts to ask, and the powers-that-be might very well re-visit the policy. Good luck!
    posted by Blogger The Sauls Family at 8/01/2008 05:28:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger siobhan at 8/01/2008 05:37:00 PM  

  • hey, we're at Tales here lady...FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT....and protest and get it changed...YOU are her mother and You decide....NOT them....find a bike rack off the beaten path or rent a space by a nearby house....but FIGHT.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 8/01/2008 06:05:00 PM  

  • I cycle to work, and I also rode to school WITH my girls when they were in the younger years. Actually, I used a bike trailer when they were in kindergarten.

    I think a distinction should be made for accompanied riding.

    And the gas costs is certainly a good excuse.
    posted by Anonymous Naismith at 8/01/2008 06:55:00 PM  

  • I'm usually a lurker, but this one bugs me so much that I have to say something. If you can't win over the district, work around them. Maybe find a place to lock her bike off school property, or ride it back home yourself. Something. SOMETHING! Don't give up. Don't give in.
    posted by Blogger Cari at 8/01/2008 08:51:00 PM  

  • I agree with paul and think you should fight this issue- especially when the parent is accompanying them on and OFF school property. It's ridiculous. I wonder if another child was injured in the past riding a bike by themselves, so that is why they made the rule. What kind of a magic number is 4th grade anyway?

    A similar incident happened to me at my daughter's school on picture day. I bought her an adorable sleeveless, by no means immodest pink sparkley shirt and the principal MADE her put a jacket over it. I went into the office and asked him and his secretary why they didn't allow my daughter to wear the shirt I specifically bought for picture day. They said, "It's in the handbook and it is the dress code." (Can you tell I live in Utah?) They were completely firm on this issue and I now have a school picture with her jacket on over her cute shirt! I was very upset and wondered why sleeveless shirts were such an issue for a first grader. Anyway, it was the first time I was aware of a dress code in public school... Good luck and I hope your school district will reconsider the biking rule. There would be a lot of angry kids and parents if our school had that rule!
    posted by Blogger LJ at 8/01/2008 09:32:00 PM  

  • I say fight it. With "global warming" and "energy crisis" types of arguments.
    As for dress codes, almost all public schools have them. The specifics may be different, but they usually have a dress code. We live in Seattle. My elementary says no makeup! Yay! Its nice to know that 6th graders won't be pressured to grow up and wear makeup. I have also heard of shirt length and sleeves for schools around here.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/01/2008 09:59:00 PM  

  • I say fight it. I think the unaccompanied rule is fine for 4th graders, but if the parent is there with their child on the bike, it shouldn't be any of the school's business. In my daughter's school district there is no such rule and I see kids in kindergarten riding their bikes to school with their parents every day.
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 8/01/2008 10:53:00 PM  

  • Ride the bike and lock it up next door to school; it's not on school property!!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/01/2008 10:53:00 PM  

  • Well, anyone that knows me well knows that I will fight. An e-mail has already been sent to the school board to figure out where the rule originated and how we go about putting it up for re-examination.

    Parking the bike off school property is definitely an option in the mean time. They did mention something about the rule means we can't use the bike racks on school property--because I think they realize they can't really control what parents do off school property. So I might have to knock on the doors of a few school neighbors to see if someone wouldn't mind having a bike in their side yard a few times a week.

    I know another parent of a first graders walks her sons bike back home after she drops him off. Not really an option for me since I already am pushing a large jogging stroller with two more kids in it. I think it's discrimination against "larger" families :).

    I'm a little disheartened to hear that this is a common rule out there. But, times are changing. It seems like this rule needs changing too.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/01/2008 11:22:00 PM  

  • P.S. Anyone out there have experience dealing with the school board/school district in policy issues?
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/01/2008 11:23:00 PM  

  • I understand why you want to fight it but I think there is a reason for the rule. Last year we had a first grader get hit by a car riding his bike to school. His older brother was with him, not a parent. I think there are parents who would not accompany their child so they had to make this rule. All the other comments I read were so dead set on fighting and I think just because it's best for your family and your situation doesn't mean it's best for everyone in the district.
    posted by Blogger Alyson P. at 8/02/2008 02:20:00 AM  

  • Having a bike riding child get hit by a car is definitely a tragedy, but it isn't one I feel the school needs to take responsibility for.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/02/2008 07:22:00 AM  

  • As usual, I have no advice to offer. I was the district representative for my school when I was in 5th grade though...I'll see if I can pull up some of my old notes on how situations like this were handled;)
    I know you will fight it and I am almost sure you will change it. Can't wait to hear the story.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 8/02/2008 07:27:00 AM  

  • I've done a little fighting with our school district...sometimes I've won, sometimes I haven't. My advice is pretty basic:

    -keep a written record of conversations you have to support your case if you have to keep going further up the chain for approval....so email is usually best and if you have a personal conversation, follow up by email so you do have a record.

    -be persistent, but don't get nasty.

    -do you have a good relationship with the principal? If so, start there before you go to the school district. At least in my experience, principals can hide behind policies if they don't want to bother, but they also have a ton of power to influence change as well.

    Oh wow...and my oldest isn't even in kindergarten yet...I'll be ready to write a book by the time he graduates!

    Good luck. I agree, this is worth fighting and I've seen you in action, so my bets are on you.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 8/02/2008 04:47:00 PM  

  • "Last year we had a first grader get hit by a car riding his bike to school."

    But a kid could get hit by a car even if s/he was walking to school.

    Does your district also outlaw walking to school?
    posted by Anonymous Naismith at 8/02/2008 05:37:00 PM  

  • The district can't really outlaw riding the bike to school.....they can only say you can't store the bike at school. So that is what it comes down to.
    What kind of area do you live in? Politically? Liberal? Education personnel tend to be liberal, so they tend to care about the environment, but they also tend to like "nanny state" types of laws like forcing parents to protect their children in car seats.
    I think you could get it changed to ok to bike (i.e. store bike at school) only if parent comes in and promises to bike with the child, etc.
    Start out by suggesting this. Be very supportive of the school and their point of view. You will not be able to change their minds if you are not understanding of why the rule is in place and what their viewpoint is. Work WITH them, not against them. Assume that they have your child's best interest in mind, and act like you have all the kids' best interest in mind. Always be polite and ask them for advice on how to proceed to get the dialogue open about this, etc.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/02/2008 08:22:00 PM  

  • I doubt you'll get the policy changed, and I doubt they'll make an exception for you. There's bound to be legal reasons for the policy. School districts are probably regularly sued for kids being killed or injured on their way to and from school.

    But I wish you luck in trying, and I hope you'll let us know what you find out.
    posted by Blogger Susan M at 8/05/2008 08:14:00 AM  

  • fight, fight, fight!

    as for the dress code, it's not just in utah. here in california, i have yet to have personal experience with a school that doesn't forbid sleeveless tops. and that's in CALIFORNIA!

    one thing that irked me... my daughter goes to a private school, so they have uniforms, but they have a dress code for their infrequent "free dress days." they don't allow sleeveless, but one of the headlining pictures on their website is of a teacher standing at the front of a classroom... in a tank top.
    posted by Anonymous makakona at 8/06/2008 08:18:00 AM  

  • I am a teacher and you have no idea how many rules are made because of THOSE people. You know, the ones who are supposed to accompany their first grader on the bike, but don't and then get mad when her bike is stolen because it wasn't locked up properly. Dress code is the same: A tank top isn't the problem, it is the mom who buys her daughter spaghetti strap tops that are too big and then complains when the girl says the boys are looking at her, a she buys a skirt that is way too short and then accuses the teacher of sexual harrassment when she reminds the child to sit with her legs crossed when she sits on the floor. (That happened to me! "Do you make the boys sit with their legs crossed???") Blanket statements, like no sleeveless shirts, just make it all a little easier. And not just in Utah!

    I would do what you have done: politely ask the board why this policy is in place and ask that it be revisited. Go to PTA meetings and talk about it there. Get other people on your side and go about it like Ghandi. Don't go in with guns blazing. Save that for when you have to save the music program from being shut down (if you still have music that is!)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/17/2008 04:58:00 PM  

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