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Mom Faces Neglect Charges for Making Kids Walk to School

The Short of It

A Tennessee mom is facing child neglect charges for making her daughters walk to school while she drove ahead of them.

The Lowdown

After Lisa Marie Palmer's daughters missed the bus to school, she punished them by making them walk while she drove in front of them. Now she's facing charges of child neglect and driving without a license.

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Marion County Deputy Chris Ladd spotted the two girls walking with a dog. A gold Cadillac was parked on the shoulder about 50 yards in front of them with the engine running.

According to Ladd's report, it looked like Palmer was driving ahead of the children and "allowing them to walk and catch up to her vehicle and to proceed with that action until the children reached the school." He estimated that the girls—both under age 10—had walked about a mile and a half and had about two more miles to go.

"Temperatures were cold, and traffic was beginning to become heavy with citizens heading to work," Ladd said. "Mrs. Palmer was in no position to reach her children safely in the event of an emergency."

So Ladd cited Palmer for child neglect and arranged for the children to get to school. Since Palmer didn't have a valid driver's license, she couldn't be allowed to drive them. The case is being investigated by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

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The Upshot

My husband likes to tell my kids a story about how his parents did this same thing to him when he was growing up. I know times are different now, but is this really a case of neglect? Isn't trying to teach your kids a lesson actually the opposite of neglect?

The national definition of child abuse or neglect is roughly defined as: "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

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Maybe Palmer's choice of a busy road was off the mark. I see how a heavily trafficked area could be considered "imminent risk." But still, it's not like she left them alone—she was close by in her car. I'm torn on this one. Shouldn't this be the parent's call, not a police officer's? And if not, where do we draw the line?

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