Mom Convicted of Letting 4 y.o. Daughter Draw in Park with Chalk

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Hi Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, alerting you to the fact you should set down your coffee cup before reading any further, lest you feel compelled to take a bite out of it in sheer frustration. That’s because a mom in Richmond, Va. was just given 50 hours of community service (which really sounds like more than 50 hours if you listen to what she is expected to do) for letting her kid draw with chalk on some rocks in the park.

Apparently chalk is the gateway drug to graffiti.

“It is all the same thing,” said James River Park Systems Park Manager, Ralph White. “A couple of weeks ago, I was covering over pornographic drawings done in chalk. It doesn’t matter what the medium is. It’s offensive.”

Yes, he just compared chalk to paint…and a 4-year-old’s drawings to porn. Here’s the rest of that article.

I wrote a little bit more the case on my site. What I forgot to add there that I’ll add here is that the mom is not even allowed to enter a park until she completes her service. As if she’s a terrifying criminal.

I guess in the eyes of the law, she is. Anyway, the debate raging over by me is about the fact that the mom was convicted two years ago of doing REAL graffiti– with paint — on the same rocks. So maybe that makes her a recidivist? And also the fact that when the cop came to arrest her for the chalk crime this time she allegedly said, “You must hate your f***ing job.”

Does that really equal the punishment? – L.

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50 Responses to “Mom Convicted of Letting 4 y.o. Daughter Draw in Park with Chalk”

  1. #1 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Her 50 hours Community Sevice should be creating chalk messages informing her neighbors that the Police State is alive and well in Virginia…
    BTW Where’s the ACLU: isn’t this a First Amendment matter?
    THat’s what Robert Lederman used.

  2. #2 |  Patrick from Popehat | 

    Chaco Canyon National Park, circa 100 B. C.

    Two Anasazi youths were barred from the canyon today after admitting to the tribal council that they had covered canyon walls with drawings of antelope, gazelles, and cougars.

    “This is vandalism, pure and simple,” said tribal shaman Nurhaut Ong, in arguing before the council that the youths be punished “to the full extent of tribal law”.

    Shaman Ong noted the youths’ offense was particularly egregious in that they had marked the walls in charcoal. “It takes our women a lot of time to clean that stuff off, time that could be better spent skinning, gathering seeds, and raising children who know better than to desecrate our shared canyon walls.”

    Ong noted his displeasure at the light sentence the offenders received. “Banishment, what’s that? Soft, pueblo style justice. In the days of our revered Anasazi ancestors, we’d have hamstrung these hooligans.” …

  3. #3 |  PeeDub | 

    If the 4 year old is now mistrustful of cops, at least *some* good came of the whole thing.

  4. #4 |  Bob | 

    It could certainly be argued that it’s just chalk, and will wash off on it’s own eventually.

    But there’s a bigger issue here, one of ‘boundaries’. It’s ok to draw with your chalk at your house, or in your yard, but not where you don’t have specific permission to. Kids need to be taught to respect the property of others. That’s the lesson the mom failed to teach, and why she gets to spend 50 hours repainting posts.

    The whole “50 hours of repainting posts” does seem harsh, but how else do you deal with stuff like this?

  5. #5 |  Patrick from Popehat | 

    Congratulations Bob, you’ve just outlawed hopskotch.

  6. #6 |  PeeDub | 

    @Bob

    Surely you can think of some other way than making a criminal out of the woman. Surely?

  7. #7 |  ALowe | 

    Bob. Dude. It’s a rock. In a public park. Not someone’s property.

  8. #8 |  divadab | 

    Ralph White: Low-IQ Authoritarian (a bit of an oxymoron!)

    Ralph White: A man with no sense of proportion or judgment.

    Ralph White: Evil Robot

    Ralph White: Unworthy servant.

  9. #9 |  Bob | 

    #5:Patrick from Popehat

    Congratulations Bob, you’ve just outlawed hopskotch.

    Hardly. Plenty of areas where it’s perfectly acceptable to draw hopscotch diagrams.

    #6: PeeDub

    @Bob

    Surely you can think of some other way than making a criminal out of the woman. Surely?

    She’s hardly being made a ‘criminal’. She got a ticket and has to do some community service.

    What would you suggest? Going back in time and educating her on respecting the property rights of others? You need 1.21 gigawatts of energy for that! The only thing that can do that is a bolt of lightning! And you never know where those will strike.

    In all fairness? Yes, I think the post painting is harsh. And I also think it’s a total waste to even have to have the apparatchik to dispense and enforce it. But that’s how it works. Enough people are self centered and/or unthinking enough to require it. And don’t call me Shirley.

    Look at that! Two pop culture references in one post! I’m on a roll!

  10. #10 |  ShelbyC | 

    @Patrick, you’re minimizing what these delinquents did. They also drew swastikas, which is of course a hate crime.

  11. #11 |  William Kern | 

    “How else do you deal with stuff like this?” lol

  12. #12 |  ShelbyC | 

    “That’s the lesson the mom failed to teach, and why she gets to spend 50 hours repainting posts.”

    @Shirley, so the 50 hours is for failing to teach a lesson that the government thinks ought to be taught? And you’re OK with that?

    Also, maybe she should have been charged with trespassing, since the park wasn’t her property? And how much time should she have gotten if she had, say, allowed her children to pluck dandelions out of the grass?

  13. #13 |  Bob | 

    #7: ALowe

    Bob. Dude. It’s a rock. In a public park. Not someone’s property.

    Technically, it’s everybody’s property, under the maintenance authority of a communally selected agency.

    The important point is that it’s not her property to draw on. The PROPER way to deal with this is to not let your 4 year old draw on whatever she feels like drawing on. How hard is that?

    It could also be argued that a “Wide latitude” be used in enforcement. And indeed, that seems to be the case here. The charges will be dropped on completion of the community service.

  14. #14 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #2 – Patrick, you have a gift for satire.

  15. #15 |  Bob | 

    #12 | ShelbyC | August 3rd, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Also, maybe she should have been charged with trespassing, since the park wasn’t her property? And how much time should she have gotten if she had, say, allowed her children to pluck dandelions out of the grass?

    I think the operative phrase here is “Reductio ad absurdum.”

  16. #16 |  Whim | 

    Consider the case of chalking violator Ademo Freeman, of Keene N.H. He is sitting in jail at Valley Street Jail, Manchester N.H.

    Freeman has been jailed for two months for “resisting ” (going limp) when arrested with a group of chalkers for writing with chalk last summer. Freeman appealed, but due to a clerical error, or intentional miscommunication by the court, he was denied the chance to be judged by a jury.

    In the upcoming weeks, Freeman will be defending himself against three counts of felony wiretapping (totaling a maximum 21 years in prison) for video & audio filming three state government officials in their state-owned building when he was there simply asking questions.

    Isn’t the New Hampshires state motto: “Live Free or Die”.

    I understand the die part…..GOT that part down.

  17. #17 |  Don | 

    I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that it’s not cool to allow one member of the public to play etch-a-sketch on community property, even if it’s with a semi-temporary media like chalk.

    So I’m also perfectly comfortable with saying she has to wash it off, preferably with the help of her kid. Then they both get Bob’s lesson on boundaries and we don’t turn this into a giant unnecessary kerfuffle.

    Hell, they could have just given her 50 hours or a clean rock, whichever comes first.

  18. #18 |  ShelbyC | 

    @ Bob, I see, so chalk on rocks is on one side of the “absurdum” line, but plucking dandelions from the grass is on the other? Who knew? How about, say, sandcastles at the beach? Criminal vandalism or harmless fun?

  19. #19 |  Stephen | 

    #9 | Bob |

    That would be 1.21 jigawatts. :)

  20. #20 |  crazybob | 

    Bob’s right:
    1) when I go to a public park, designed to preserve the natural environment, I shouldn’t find it defaced with chalk drawings.
    2) The only fair way to deal with the situation in a free society is through the justice system.
    3) The only possible justification for punishment is enhancing public safety through deterrence. If the punishment is trivial (for example just washing off the chalk) and the odds of being caught are <<1, then there is no deterrent effect.

  21. #21 |  Narcissit07 | 

    I can’t say for sure, but I think I would have looked at the judge and said, What if I refuse your community service. are you going to jail me , feed house, and clothe me at approx. $300 a day cost for allowing my child to be a child and draw with non-permanent chalk on some rocks? Are you friggin’ kidding me? No, I don’t want your community service. Jail me.” I wonder how many violent crimes were committed in the city while the cops were harrassing this mom!

  22. #22 |  ALowe | 

    3) The only possible justification for punishment is enhancing public safety through deterrence. If the punishment is trivial (for example just washing off the chalk) and the odds of being caught are <<1, then there is no deterrent effect.

    So there is no justification for the punishment, then? Or are you arguing that chalk on a rock is a threat to public safety?

  23. #23 |  Brandon | 

    “I think the operative phrase here is “Reductio ad absurdum.””

    No, your point really can’t get any more absurd.

  24. #24 |  Lorenzo | 

    The problem is that the term Reductio ad absurdum has no real meaning anymore. These petty and self important martinets are beyond parody. The earlier poster is right — do you really have any confidence that plucking a weed, a flower, or a pear; skipping a stone; yelling “What the hell” in the presence of a child or pastor; throwing chewed gum into a creek; almost anything, is off limits to the Keepers of Public Morality?

  25. #25 |  Brandon | 

    #20,

    I assume you would’ve been just fine with the Occupy protesters being rounded up and tried for trespassing and destruction of public property too, right?

  26. #26 |  gill | 

    In the video she said she was happy with the verdict.

    $350 / 50 hours = $7 per hour. Not a very good wage but then make work shouldn’t pay as much as skilled labor.

    She was convicted of painting the same rocks 2 years ago, by the same officer. I’d like to hear more details about that. I live in a nice exurb and we occasionally get some graffiti (which is quickly removed/covered). I think people that deface property (public or private) with paint in my neighborhood should have the book thrown at them.

    Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing worse than police on a power trip. Well, maybe politicians passing law after law pandering to some interest group. I’ve seen plenty of police abuse over the years and I consider then to be only a marginal improvement over having the mob or gangs maintain order. That said I don’t know enough about this case to make an informed judgement.

  27. #27 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    “Pornographic Chalk Drawing” would be a good name for a rock band. Am I the only one who read Ralph’s quote and was sure he was slandering real pornography? I have a feeling the offending chalk drawing looked something like this:

    8=D <– Ralph's weiner

  28. #28 |  BladeDoc | 

    As pointed out (by Insty, I think) that the authorities HAVE to enforce the ban on the mom if they enforce the ban on anyone else because they open themselves up to a first amendment lawsuit if they do not (viewpoint discrimination). It’s probably a defensible suit in this instance (i.e. if the previous drawings were obscene or could be wedged into a “hate crime” category) but still, the law is an ass.

  29. #29 |  Or gone | 

    So mom is an asshole who spray paints graffiti and now she’s encouraging her kid to do the same?

    Punishment seems about right to me.

    I thought this place encouraged libertarians. If you don’t own it, don’t fuck with it.

  30. #30 |  Mattocracy | 

    Who exactly was the victim of this crime of drawing with chalk? Was it the tax payer? I don’t know that you can argue that seeing as how the chalk disappears after a decent rain shower. But let’s just say that is valid for a second…

    50 hours of community service!? For chalk. Or she could have made her fellow tax payers whole by cleaning the chalk off the rock herself. All parties satisfied without draconian law.

  31. #31 |  ClubMedSux | 

    . . . when the cop came to arrest her for the chalk crime this time she allegedly said, “You must hate your f***ing job.”

    You guys can argue all you want about the proper punishment for allowing a 4-year-old to color with chalk, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that’s why she’s being punished. Clearly she was arrested for contempt of cop, a crime for which there is no forgiveness.

  32. #32 |  ShelbyC | 

    “I thought this place encouraged libertarians. If you don’t own it, don’t fuck with it.”

    But the public owns it, so doesn’t the public get to fuck with it? And generally we allow fucking with public property in mildly transformative ways, such as children picking dandelions to make a boquet, or building sandcastles at the beach. The problem with the “boundaries” argument is that, as evidenced by the outrage over this incident, many, even most, people feel that drawing on rocks with chalk lies on the “permitted” side of the boundary. Given the lack of consensus, if the town wishes to prevent people from drawing on rocks with chalk, maybe they can put up a sign or something?

  33. #33 |  crazybob | 

    “So there is no justification for the punishment, then? Or are you arguing that chalk on a rock is a threat to public safety”

    should read:
    3) The only possible justification for punishment is enhancing public safety and protecting public and private property through deterrence.

  34. #34 |  BlackBloc | 

    >>>Kids need to be taught to respect the property of others.

    Yes, because property is not a natural and self-evident right but a cultural construct enforced by the State.

  35. #35 |  H. Rearden | 

    crazybob-
    I suppose that you must think that temporary chalk is something that public property must be protected from.

    I don’t know if any of you ‘throw the book at her’ a-holes have any kids. When you do, you learn to put up with a lot of things they do that, if it were up to you, you;d rather they didn’t. But you come to realize that it’s not really that big of a deal, that their behavior is essentially harmless and nothing but simple fun in their eyes, and you come to the realization that you’d be an authoritarian douchebag if you tried to prevent them from doing it. Writing unobscene things in chalk on a rock in a public park is one of those things.

    crazybob, I find it odd that you think deterrence is the only justification for punishment. Considering the number of people in US jails, you’d think we’d have successfully ended crime through deterrence. Deterrence is merely a by-product of punishment that is effective on those who are only marginal in their motivation to commit crime. For better of worse, the justification for criminal punishment is retribution.

    Consider someone who commits embezzlement through accounting fraud. These are intelligent people, otherwise they would not be in their professional position. They are well aware that what they are doing is illegal and the possible consequences, yet this does not deter them from their crimes. Would stiffer penalties on past offender make is less likely that the present person would commit this crime? Unlikely.

  36. #36 |  demize! | 

    Oh jeez looks like we have some property fetishists thinking they’re “Libertarians” on the scene. #sigh

  37. #37 |  Peter | 

    @ShelbyC “plucking dandelions from the grass is on the other?”

    I actually punish my four year old for doing this because, as I explain to her mother after the Nth time my neighbor complained to me my daughter picked her roses, you are enabling bad behavior because a four year old doesn’t understand the difference between the neighbors yard and the park, both are “not ours” in her head. I actually have NO problem with her doing this on public property but until she is old enough to understand the lines between personal, private, and public property the answer is simply “Unless it’s directly yours or you have been giving explicit permssion, don’t fuck with it”. [coached in terms of course a four year old can understand]

  38. #38 |  PeeDub | 

    @Bob

    “She’s hardly being made a ‘criminal’. She got a ticket and has to do some community service.”

    From the FA (which you undoubtedly didn’t read):

    “A judge determined that there was enough evidence to convict Susan Mortensen, 29, on charges of vandalism …”

    Evidence. Convict. Charges. Is there some other definition of criminalization you might be using?

  39. #39 |  Personanongrata | 

    Does that really equal the punishment? – L.

    Its not about punishment, its about control.

  40. #40 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    I suppose that you must think that temporary chalk is something that public property must be protected from.

    So I’m allowed to draw on any public property I like as long at it’s temporary? Can I go draw on the the Alamo, or on the walls of the Smithsonian, or maybe put a giant chalk Mt. Dew ad on the face of Half Dome?

  41. #41 |  marco73 | 

    So a citizen cussed and mouthed off to the arresting officer, and wasn’t Tazed or beaten? And the cops didn’t shoot the dog? Man, those are some lazy cops.

    Unless the 4 year old was chalking a rock as large as a house, how in the world is 50 hours community service right? Should be 1 hour with a hose to spray off the rock.

  42. #42 |  ClubMedSux | 

    So I’m allowed to draw on any public property I like as long at it’s temporary? Can I go draw on the the Alamo, or on the walls of the Smithsonian, or maybe put a giant chalk Mt. Dew ad on the face of Half Dome?

    Clearly that is the logical implication of failing to punish a mom for a FOUR-YEAR-OLD DRAWING ON A ROCK IN A PARK WITH CHALK.

    I honestly don’t know what else to say…

  43. #43 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    @42:

    1.) Why does the fact it’s a 4 year old matter? Are you saying it’s okay to ban adults from drawing in chalk? On what basis? And what’s the age cutoff.

    2.) Half Dome is also just a rock. What determines which rocks we’re allowed to draw on and which ones we aren’t?

  44. #44 |  CyniCAl | 

    “You need 1.21 gigawatts of energy for that! The only thing that can do that is a bolt of lightning! And you never know where those will strike.”

    It strikes the clock tower, dipshit.

  45. #45 |  ShelbyC | 

    @Stormy Dragon, and I can build sandcastles at the beach, but not on the front lawn of the Smithsonian. Go figure.

  46. #46 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    @ShelbyC

    How about the beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park?

  47. #47 |  Ariel | 

    My only look at this is how people conflate things all out of proportion. We’ve seen some go from a child’s chalk to graffitti, we’ve had the authoritarians who can’t understand the spirit of a law (I assume they all work as prosecutors), and the few that went “Really, are you kidding, you must be.”

    This is why parents get charged with child porn because they take pictures of their kids in bathtubs. Which by the way makes almost every one of your parents child pornographers. The spirit of the law is the purpose of the law, not the letter. So many laws are written so very, very poorly that the authors should be charged with a crime.

    This should never have gone this far. The boundaries argument is well over blown.

  48. #48 |  liberranter | 

    And also the fact that when the cop came to arrest her for the chalk crime this time she allegedly said, “You must hate your f***ing job.”

    No the cop obviously LOVES its f***ing job. Anything that would dedicate itself to zealously, aggressively arresting people for non-crimes is a sociopath. Sociopaths LOVE to cause pain, inconvenience, and suffering; in fact, it’s what the LIVE FOR.

  49. #49 |  LM | 

    She did it two years ago when she was 27????? This one sounds like a real winner. Most people I know had better things to do when they were 27.

  50. #50 |  Mom Sentence for Letting 4 y.o. Draw with Chalk | The Agitator | Caring Doula | 

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