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Tennessee dad arrested for attempting to pick up kids after school on foot

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 20, 2013

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  Jim Howe arrested while attempting to pick up kids after school (YouTube screenshot courtesy of Howe Motorsports)

It’s a tragedy of wrong decisions and insecure personality, with a ridiculous result:  In Cumberland County, Tennessee, a school district tried to deal with post-school traffic madness by imposing a rule that parents had to line up in their cars, stretching a half-mile, outside the school to pick up their kids in a presumably orderly fashion.  They didn’t consider the possibility that any parent might want to bypass the line and pick up their kids on foot, basically because it is so rare.

So, when dad Jim Howe showed up on foot to retrieve his kids after school was out but before the line of cars had done its thing, he was told he had to wait in line like everybody else; never mind that he wasn’t driving a car.  When Howe asked for his kids to be released to him, the deputy sheriff apparently took it as a challenge to his authority and, to make a long story short, handcuffed Howe and put him in the back of a law enforcement vehicle.

Writing in The Blaze, Jason Howerton reports:

“Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess told WATE-TV [that Deputy] Aytes was only doing his job by ‘enforcing the law.’ However, the sheriff also said he agrees with the father on principle, saying the policy is creating safety concerns because it has created a line of cars along the highway outside of the school.

“Burgess said he is reviewing the policy and will make some recommendations this week as to what changes should be made to ensure student safety.

“Howe is outraged that he was arrested for trying to pick up his kids. He says he doesn’t need a reason to pick up his own kids from school.”

Howe’s fiancée filmed the episode and posted it on YouTube.  It’s almost a parody of how things can go wrong when we insist on having a nation of essentially unwalkable schools:


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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Switchboard and in the national media.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.  Kaid’s forthcoming book, People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities, will be released in January.

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BossiNov 20 2013 02:39 PM

Agree w/ ridiculousness of this and, based solely on what's recorded (not being able to speak what occurred prior to recording), the impression is that the Sheriff is the one arousing the situation. But that's a strong caveat about missing what transpired prior to recording.

Just to offer a bit of counterpoint, from the photos at the start of the video it gives the impression that they may have driven. The father does, however, imply that the parents & children may have solely walked. If the latter is true, this is certainly ridiculous.

If the former... it's still rather absurd parents cannot separately collect their children, but it's worth noting that if a parent could proceed to skip the line by stopping elsewhere -- could that result in others following suit, disrupting the purpose, intent, and presumed safety & efficiency of the traffic patterns? How could this impact adjacent neighborhoods, from the standpoint of parking availability & safety impacts of traffic circulation + sudden/awkward movements?

Kaid @ NRDCNov 20 2013 02:50 PM

Bossi - true, a lot of unknowns could color the way we view the situation. But the fact that the sheriff seems to think the rule being enforced is troublesome tells us that Howe was likely on to something when he decided to pick up his kids a different way. And, regardless of Howe's personal situation, a half-mile backup just to retrieve kids from school speaks volumes about school locations and our car-dependent society. That's the real point here, I think.

I really love your photos, BTW.

GalyeanNov 20 2013 05:43 PM

In NO WAY does any school district in any state have the right to tell a parent they can not pick their own child up and safely walk them home from school. We live in America where we still have rights and liberties. This man in no way was being out of hand or violent but simply stating his opinion and speaking his mind in a public place. His children should have been given to him promptly so he could walk them home in a safe manner. This man was being a good parent and there should be more parents like him. The arresting officer as well as the school school district need to be sued. WE can not let our rights be violated like this. We are not living in Nazi Germany.

johnNov 20 2013 10:19 PM

This goes to show yet another facet of how 9/11 has affected this country and how law enforcement is taking over civil liberties. All the man was doing was picking up his children from school. Even if he did drive to pick them up, as long as he parked his car in a legal spot he did not break the law and for no reason should he not be able to take his kids home from school. Is he wrong for not obeying like the rest of the cattle being herded through the one-at-a-time shoot? They obviously have an issue with too many vehicles in line to retrieve their offspring from it's education center, and as I have seen is a growing epidemic throughout the nation. The man was trying to prove a point about their problem, and in no way was he breaking the law. What happened to sending kids home on the bus? Are we too prideful and spoiled to use the transportation provided or is it a matter of security, that oh so frightful word we have been plagued with since an over dramatized event occurred 12 years ago. Just seems that our rights are being taken away from us, in this case the first amendment. Only in a post 9/11 USA would a man walk into school to pick his kids up from school and end up behind bars. You cant argue with law enforcement, they are always right and will show you first hand; now put'em behind your back!

mikko viitanenNov 21 2013 02:55 AM

That is excatly where you are living in. God save a america. Well I guess god was too busy, too late for that now ;)

Brian SmithNov 21 2013 04:01 AM

Wouldn't it be better if more parents walked to school to pick their kids up? It is inexplicable to me that a school would actively enforce more driving!

Steve EvansNov 21 2013 05:41 PM

Bottom of all of this is zoning and regulations for this city should have required off street space for pick up and delivery of the student population. This falls on the school district and city officials who did not do their job...Traffic hazards could be eliminated with good planning is my thought....

Lisa GiffordNov 22 2013 11:52 AM

What an environmental hazard first of all! to have all those cars lined up, moving slowly, the carbon emissions must be off the charts! This is so unhealthy in so many ways. The cars should park, the parents should walk to the front doors, pick up their child, walk the child to the car, and drive away. This way, everyone gets some exercise, you decrease carbon emissions, and you teach your children a healthy lifestyle. This Sheriff guy should be fired, he has no business wearing a uniform! He is an aggressive, self imposed donkey's hind end! What that Sheriff did was wrong. Take his badge away, he doesn't deserve it! He is more interested in having his way, that serving and protecting!

Gregory ShapiroNov 22 2013 12:35 PM

The arrest was totally unlawful. "You're being disorderly" - Why b/c he was having a discussion with him and had a different opinion?! WE DON'T LIVE IN A COMMUNIST STATE. That officer should be fired STAT.

Noella ThomasNov 22 2013 02:49 PM

I would have never thought that the father had parked his car and got out to pick up his children and then walk back to his car. The fact that he photographed a long line of cars reinforces the idea that he actually walked to school from his home. And as far as what transpired before the filming, we don't know. I'd imagine from this article that he was upset because the school would not release his children to him. I'd be upset too.

Barbara ThurlowNov 25 2013 06:19 PM

The deputy was WAY out of line. It didn't even matter if school was out for the day or not. If a parent walks into a school and asks to have their children released to them, at any time for whatever reason, the school has no right to hold them. Period.

Ray SotkirNov 25 2013 11:56 PM

Law Enforcement gone wild....

Sadly in a nation of paranoia, this is what we get.

Bob's your uncleNov 26 2013 07:58 AM

The weirdest thing about this is that the law-enforcement there is stupid enough to call school policy 'the law', and enforce it as such.

Only on America.

Lois MNov 26 2013 11:20 AM

In addition to making kids fatter through inactivity, picking each kid up in front of their school belches tons of car exhaust and pollution into the air which leads to asthma and other serious diseases. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership issued a report on high air pollution around schools, along with ideas, best practices and information on how school administrators and parents can work together to fix this problem. The website has numerous examples of ideas that are better than "sit in your car, make you and your kids fat and sick, waste gas and waste time."

Brian FergusonNov 26 2013 02:20 PM

I'm so sick and tired of police using the excuse "just following orders" or "policy" for doing the stupidest things. Have a clue.

P SmithNov 26 2013 11:13 PM

Another day, another power-tripping cop without an inking of intelligence. Where's the surprise?

No doubt he went into "law enforcement" because he saw it as a way to paid for being a bully. That idiot isn't fit to work at a walmart, never mind in a position of legal authority.

And where the hell is the school principal or head of the school district in all of this? Why is he/she so stupid as to write a "policy" that doesn't allow for walking? No wonder so many Americans are fat (e.g. the cop).

P SmithNov 26 2013 11:18 PM

Shapiro -

No, the US is not a commuist country.

It is a fascist country, always has been, and is getting worse.

VeselinNov 27 2013 05:18 AM

You're still far from communism. Some major differences I ca think of:

- In the communism I walked back from school from 1st grade unsupervised.
- Most people didn't have cars.
- The groceries were empty.
- 10% of the population were snitching to the political police.

It's still ridiculous how much power you gave to police to mess up people's lives.

SteveNov 27 2013 08:51 AM

Another Clear case of Police Abusing the Badge

anonymous. Nov 27 2013 03:13 PM

He should have the absolute right to take his children anytime. He should have the right to use whatever force is necessary to take his children.

Drone-XNov 27 2013 03:51 PM

“Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess told WATE-TV [that Deputy] Aytes was only doing his job by ‘enforcing the law."

It's a law? Or is it a school rule?

Ele Espinosa Nov 29 2013 01:42 PM

Not sure if this was mentioned in the previous posts, but there's also the issue of a parent wanting to speak to a school official in person at the time they pick their child up. If they follow the new rules, they probably have a time limit for being in the school so the next parent come go inside. If it were a parent who is on foot, they won't need to feel rushed.

This is up there with suspending two children for fighting when is it is highly possible that only one was the instigator and the other was defending themself. Very stupid and not well thought-out.

Ty SmithNov 29 2013 02:52 PM

My guess is the school doesn't want a lot of unidentified adults walking around the school at dismissal for the safety of the kids walking home. This guy doesnt want to follow the rules. 10 to 1 this guy is a constant problem for the school.

concerned citizenNov 29 2013 11:46 PM

Ty Smith, you must be one of enforcement goons, calling parents unidentified adults. 10 to 1 you don't follow the rules, don't know the laws and would like to have people implanted with identity chips so they can be easily identified for the safety of the kids.

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