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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Help Lia Grippo, a California mom punished for letting kids play

by Sierra on September 11, 2009 · 17 comments

in homeschooling,news

I first read Lia’s story on Free Range Kids a few months ago.

In a nutshell, Lia ran a small, home-based childcare program not unlike the one I run. She lives in Santa Barbara, and took the kids on nature outings a couple times a week. One day, they were at the beach and she was closely supervising a few kids climbing a bluff. The lifeguard came over to “help” the kids get down and a bystander called the police. Subsequently, she lost her license to operate a home childcare.

Since I also run a nature-based childcare program, this story hit close to home for me. This morning, a friend passed me this link to a fundraising event to help her fight the system.

Let’s be clear. I don’t know Lia. She might be great with kids, or she might be a total flake. The bluffs she let her kids climb might have been dangerous cliffs or they might have been steep hills like the ones my kids scramble up at every opportunity. I’m not registering an opinion about her or her abilities as a parent or teacher.

But I know that what happened to her and her little school was wrong. Assuming she’s telling the truth (and I’ve no reason to doubt her), she lost her license and her livlihood, and these kids lost a wonderful, nature-based education, because of fear. None of the kids in her care were injured, and no charges were filed against her. But someone was afraid that her style of schooling – out in nature, trusting children to find their own limits, being a little wild – would lead to injury, so they shut her down over the protests of the happy families whose kids she cared for.

That’s not right.

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  • Steve in W MA

    Dealing with a licensing board can be tough.

    The first thing to do is to read the law that governs what they do closely. Very often what they do is actually not backed up by the law.

    Then you have to challenge them administratively, and if that doesn’t work (assuming you have legal leverage because their action was actually illegal, which is common in all kinds of state and municipal agencies) legally challenge them.

    Keep in mind that it is extremely common for agencies like this to get away with doing things that, if they were challenged on, they would have to back off of. You need to get off the mentality that these agencies necessarily know what they are doing or accurately represent the law. In many cases they don’t. They may think they do, but when you point to chapter and verse they don’t and can easily be beaten.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    Dealing with a licensing board can be tough.

    The first thing to do is to read the law that governs what they do closely. Very often what they do is actually not backed up by the law.

    Then you have to challenge them administratively, and if that doesn’t work (assuming you have legal leverage because their action was actually illegal, which is common in all kinds of state and municipal agencies) legally challenge them.

    Keep in mind that it is extremely common for agencies like this to get away with doing things that, if they were challenged on, they would have to back off of. You need to get off the mentality that these agencies necessarily know what they are doing or accurately represent the law. In many cases they don’t. They may think they do, but when you point to chapter and verse they don’t and can easily be beaten.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    Her first mistake was telling that she was a childcare provider to the police, assuming they didn’t pointedly ask her. Her second was not challenging the common sense of the lifeguard and the bystander.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    Her first mistake was telling that she was a childcare provider to the police, assuming they didn’t pointedly ask her. Her second was not challenging the common sense of the lifeguard and the bystander.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    “She might be great with kids, or she might be a total flake. The bluffs she let her kids climb might have been dangerous cliffs or they might have been steep hills like the ones my kids scramble up at every opportunity. I’m not registering an opinion about her or her abilities as a parent or teacher.

    But I know that what happened to her and her little school was wrong. Assuming she’s telling the truth (and I’ve no reason to doubt her), she lost her license and her livlihood, ”

    You of course realize this is totally inconsistent. Either say what she did was ok or say it was wrong, and say whether the license board was right, or whether it was wrong, but not both.

    In you post you are basically you’re saying you don’t actually know the facts but you *feel* that it is wrong. If the bluff was a dangerous bluff (what a normal person would feel is dangerous) then the kids were in danger because she either didn’t have or didn’t or wasn’t able to enforce good judgement. Yet what is happening to her is wrong, even if it was?

    In the end, in situations like these, there is only what you can convince others of.

    And now she has to convince a licensing board to give her back the legal right to run a school.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    That paragraph was a little vague. What I was trying to say was that I don’t need to know how steep the climb was or what Lia is like as a teacher. If it’s true that none of the kids were hurt, then I think the right thing for the state agency to do is to respect her judgment as a parent and teacher. I might or might not have let my kids climb that particular bluff, but I don’t think the state should be policing those judgment calls in situations where an experienced caregiver is closely supervising the children’s activities. It’s not like she wandered off and left the kids – she was with them. In her judgement it was safe, and in fact none of the children were hurt, so why is there an issue?

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  • Steve in W MA

    “She might be great with kids, or she might be a total flake. The bluffs she let her kids climb might have been dangerous cliffs or they might have been steep hills like the ones my kids scramble up at every opportunity. I’m not registering an opinion about her or her abilities as a parent or teacher.

    But I know that what happened to her and her little school was wrong. Assuming she’s telling the truth (and I’ve no reason to doubt her), she lost her license and her livlihood, ”

    You of course realize this is totally inconsistent. Either say what she did was ok or say it was wrong, and say whether the license board was right, or whether it was wrong, but not both.

    In you post you are basically you’re saying you don’t actually know the facts but you *feel* that it is wrong. If the bluff was a dangerous bluff (what a normal person would feel is dangerous) then the kids were in danger because she either didn’t have or didn’t or wasn’t able to enforce good judgement. Yet what is happening to her is wrong, even if it was?

    In the end, in situations like these, there is only what you can convince others of.

    And now she has to convince a licensing board to give her back the legal right to run a school.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    That paragraph was a little vague. What I was trying to say was that I don’t need to know how steep the climb was or what Lia is like as a teacher. If it’s true that none of the kids were hurt, then I think the right thing for the state agency to do is to respect her judgment as a parent and teacher. I might or might not have let my kids climb that particular bluff, but I don’t think the state should be policing those judgment calls in situations where an experienced caregiver is closely supervising the children’s activities. It’s not like she wandered off and left the kids – she was with them. In her judgement it was safe, and in fact none of the children were hurt, so why is there an issue?

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    Your kids scramble up steep hills? People can die by falling down steep hills too, particularly if they get a head injury by hitting their head on something as they roll.

    It’s probably more dangerous to cross a crosswalk without full attention and systematic looking, which a lot of kids and adults do, than to climb a steep hill though.

    the world isn’t safe. I will agree that your job is to keep the hyper nutcases out of your face and out of your kids’ lives though.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    Your kids scramble up steep hills? People can die by falling down steep hills too, particularly if they get a head injury by hitting their head on something as they roll.

    It’s probably more dangerous to cross a crosswalk without full attention and systematic looking, which a lot of kids and adults do, than to climb a steep hill though.

    the world isn’t safe. I will agree that your job is to keep the hyper nutcases out of your face and out of your kids’ lives though.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    The fact that no charges have been files is prima facie evidence that no harm was done. If they thought what she was doing was unsafe (child endangerment) then they should have pressed charges.

    [Reply]

  • Steve in W MA

    The fact that no charges have been files is prima facie evidence that no harm was done. If they thought what she was doing was unsafe (child endangerment) then they should have pressed charges.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.lauderdaleguitars.com/ eric in Santa Barbara, CA

    I know the area and bluffs well. It is known localy as Hendrys beach and is bordered on both sides of the slew by very high, vertical cliffs made of very unstable and crumbeling shale.
    this story has been getting a lot of local attention and there are many mixed feelings, including my own. My initial reaction to the revocation of her licence was, well, deservidly so. The nudity didn't bother me at all, but knowing the cliffs the way I do, they are NOT the place to let children explore their limits. It's one thing to alow you own children to explore dangerous ground, it's another to allow someone elses children in your care to do so.
    Having said that, I can only asume that the parents were well aware of the intentions of Lia's day care philosophy and the potential hazards that such a program could posibly bring. I agree wholeheartedly with Lia in her statements made in the local media regaurding our scociety being too litigas and over protective. Still, these were not rolling or even steep sodden slopes, they are jagged, crumbeling vertical cliff faces.

    [Reply]

  • eric

    . The photos are deceptive. Erosion is rapid and shearing of the cliffs is common even without the agitation of someone trying to climb up. As a child, I was not allowed to climb the cliffs there, either, but it was not for my safety, it was out of respect for the eroding cliffs themselves. And 45 years later, the cliffs have indeed receded further from the shore, even without my help. Still, it was an environmental, human-impact issue for my parents. I found plenty of other ways to get hurt.
    I don’t think Lia should have lost her license, but I can understand completely. My girlfriend drives like a lunatic. She is very confidant, but she takes unnecessary risks that put her and others in danger. However, if I try to point that out, she always uses the old, “I’ve never been in an accident and never even had a ticket in 25 years” argument to justify that her aggressive driving was somehow OK…….until last April, when she got a speeding ticket, ripped the bumper of her car in a parking lot, then rear-ended someone in a serious crash all in one month. Her habits hadn’t changed, her risk-taking simply caught up with her.
    Those kids probably are great climbers, but the cliffs don’t know that, if it they decide to take that particular moment to shed. Unfortunately, if you do something in a professional capacity, you take on certain responsibilities, and in the case of childcare, avoiding unnecessary risks is one.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Eric, thanks for the local perspective on this. As I said in my post, I don't know the area or the teacher. I was just appalled at a situation where the parents and teacher were all happy with the activity, no one was harmed, and the state felt like stepping in and removing her license.

    It sounds like when you know the cliffs in question, the state's actions don't seem quite so wacky.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Eric, thanks for the local perspective on this. As I said in my post, I don't know the area or the teacher. I was just appalled at a situation where the parents and teacher were all happy with the activity, no one was harmed, and the state felt like stepping in and removing her license.

    It sounds like when you know the cliffs in question, the state's actions don't seem quite so wacky.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Eric, thanks for the local perspective on this. As I said in my post, I don't know the area or the teacher. I was just appalled at a situation where the parents and teacher were all happy with the activity, no one was harmed, and the state felt like stepping in and removing her license.

    It sounds like when you know the cliffs in question, the state's actions don't seem quite so wacky.

    [Reply]

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