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Free-range parenting bill introduced in South Carolina

Some think letting kids go alone to the park shouldn't be a big deal. Others say in the world we live in, children need adult supervision.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — South Carolina could soon be allowing young children to play or walk around alone.

A new bill introduced in the state senate would protect "free-range" parents from being charged with neglect if their child is found alone -- playing outside, walking home from school, walking the dog and so on.

The court of public opinion is seemingly divided on the issue, with some people thinking letting kids go alone to the park, for instance, shouldn't be a big deal. Others say in the world we live in, children need adult supervision.

It’s a debate that dates back several years.

In 2014, a South Carolina mom was charged with a felony for letting her then-nine-year-old play at a park while she worked nearby. It took two years for the charges to be dropped.

In 2015, Danielle and Alexander Meitiy of Maryland were charged with neglect for letting their 10 and 6-year-old kids walk alone to and from a local park.

“We’re amazed this has become a national conversation because we just doing what our parents did what was considered perfectly normal just one generation ago,” Danielle Meitiy said on the TODAY show in 2016.

And most recently in 2018, an Illinois mom was investigated by child services because she let her 8 year old take the dog for a walk.

“I wanted her to start learning responsibility," the mother told NBC News. "She was gone five minutes and the next thing I know, police [are] at my door."

Last year, Utah became the first state to pass a bill in favor of so-called free-range parents, saying kids that were well cared for can go to school, the playground, or stay in the car alone.

Now some South Carolina legislators hoping to pass a similar law. The bill just introduced seeks to lighten up the definition of child neglect, saying parents should be allowed to let their children of “sufficient age and maturity” do certain things alone.

This includes walking to and from school, playing outside, staying in a car alone, or staying home unattended … as long as the child is healthy and taken care of.