A Sunday Morning Chat with The World's Worst Mom

We moderns take pride in the fact that we no longer burn witches. But can we be so certain that we’ve emerged from the "Dark Ages" to a new enlightened state of mind? Lenore Skenazy sees some of the markings of a modern-day witch hunt in sex-offender registry laws. There’s no doubt that we need mechanisms to protect potential victims of sexual violence, but Skenazy argues that these registries enact draconian yet ineffective punishments – often branding relatively innocent minors for life, lumping them in with some of the most heinous criminals. It takes bravery to advance this view, given the unpopularity of the cause (don’t expect a March for Sex Offenders’ Rights anytime soon). But demonization hasn’t stopped Skenazy from making common-sense arguments – with a heavy dose of humor – about this and other modern-day witch hunts. She was labeled the “World’s Worst Mom” for allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the NYC subway and writing about it in the New York Post. The controversy led her to start a now-global movement of “Free Range Kids.” She now frequently speaks and writes to debunk myths like the ubiquitous kidnapper, and the incurable sex offender (the most common age of people on the sex offender registry is 14 years old). Skenazy’s latest project encourages parents and schools to grant kids more autonomy – to let go, and Let Grow – as such experiences, and the small risks involved, are essential to learning. She joins Bob this Sunday – fresh off a Cato Institute symposium, titled, “You May Be a Sex Offender if…” – to restore sanity to the conversation around sexual harassment, sex offenders, and over-sensitivity on college campuses.

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 Sarah Stillman on Minors on the Sex-Offender List, May 8, 2016

It’s tempting to divide the world, in its unyieldingly complexity, into "good guys" and "bad guys." This provides endless plots and ratings for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but it often hides the messy reality of our criminal justice system, where overzealous prosecution can make new victims out of innocent people. Sarah Stillman is an award-winning journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker, with a talent for bringing clarity and nuance to murky topics. The last time Stillman joined the show, she had written a gripping exposé on civil asset forfeiture – the unconstitutional takings of private property by police from suspects who have not been convicted of any crime. Now, she joins Bob to discuss her latest New Yorker piece, *The List,* on an even more delicate subject: minors placed on the sex-offender registry for their youthful mistakes. Stillman reports on a sampling of tragic cases, which cast doubt on laws that lead to harsh sentences and life-long scarlet letters for kids – some as young as 10 years old. We all want to protect victims. Tune in, and you may be surprised to learn how poorly the system works, even by that measure.

Lenore Skenazy: World's Worst Mom, December 7, 2014

Lenore Skenazy first made waves after writing a column about how she let her nine-year-old son ride the New York City subway home alone. This was followed by a public outcry, including the accusation of "World's Worst Mom," which led Lenore to defend her position on TV programs like The View, The Today Show, and Anderson Cooper 360. Skenazy eventually repurposed her accusers' label for a TV reality series titled, "World's Worst Mom," in which she helped to keep "helicopter parents" from hovering so close to their children. What has changed in America? Parents no longer send kids out to play in their neighborhoods. Strangers are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Even halloween candy is viewed suspiciously (despite no reports of any kid poisonings, ever). Lenore Skenazy believes this is no way for a free society to operate. Not only is it dreary, but it might be completely unnecessary. Perhaps it's time we looked at the numbers and broke down the risks, as Lenore does in her book, "Free Range Kids." Whether you have kids or not, you'll want to hear Bob and Lenore discussing the real threat to life and liberty – our own paranoia.