Police Repeatedly Question Mom of 6 Who Let Kids Pick Up Litter Outside

Anna Hershberger is a Massachusetts mother of six and has seen the police call her 3 times in the last year. Was this the recidivist’s real crime?

Last week, a cop came knocking after someone reported two of Hershberger’s children, ages five and almost seven, walking a few blocks from her home in Reading—a Boston suburb—and picking up litter.

Hershberger had spoken to Hershberger in a call just a minute earlier. Reason,A garbage truck passed by and inspired the children. They asked, “Can we have a garbagebag?” Hershberger agrees. So they started picking up trash on the street.

Homeschooling the children meant that they were homeschooled during school hours. Perhaps this explains why we called.

Children came running in and said, “Mom there are police behind us!” The cruiser was following them back home.

Hershberger said that the officers were enthusiastic until they got out of sight.

He was unhappy.

Hershberger states that Hershberger told him “Somebody could be texting without paying attention. There are also creeps out.” Although she didn’t cause a scene, she did think that it might be possible for a driver texting to careen onto her sidewalk. was with her kids, they would simply all be plowed down. As for creeps, “There are no known stories of any abductions here,” she says.

Besides, she pointed out—to Reason, not the cop—”I know what’s dangerous. I grew up in Russia.”

This brush with the law might have been less disturbing for the economist-turned-stay-at-home-mom, were it not for two other recent encounters.

Over the summer, Hershberger had taken her kids to a playground in a nearby suburb. There were only a few other families there, but someone called to report that Hershberger’s seven-seater van had a booster seat in the passenger seat, indicating a young-ish child might sometimes sit there.

A copWas dispatched. Hershberger explained to him that she has six kids and the family is on the waiting list for a 12-passenger van. In the meantime, her oldest—age eight— sometimes had to sit up front.

The cop thought the whole thing “was beyond ridiculous,” says Hershberger, and bid her good day.

And the third police encounter? Well, Hershberger had parked in front of her town’s Bagel World to pick up a coffee. She could see her kids through the store’s window, but a nearby businessman saw them too. You’ll never guess who he called.

“When I got home, a young policeman showed up,” says Hershberger. “I wouldn’t say he was apologetic, but he clearly thought he shouldn’t be there. He said, ‘Somebody called to say that you had left the kids alone in the parking lot of the Bagel World.’ And I said, yes I did—I was getting coffee.”

She had even looked up the Massachusetts’ neglect laws on Let Grow’s website (we have a map of all 50 states’ laws), and saw that this short wait was not illegal. She offered to let the cop come into her home and observe for himself how the kids were being raised.

He declined and said he thought everything seemed fine, says Hershberger.

Like so many parents across America, Hershberger is sick of having to second-guess her parenting decisions if some random passerby summons the authorities.

Hershberger says her next step is to request a meeting with the police. She hopes to discuss her wish to give the kids some independence when she and her husband believe they’re ready for it. She doesn’t mind strangers calling the cops, so long as there are no legal consequences.

In the meantime, she has been heartened by Let Grow’s advocacy efforts to get more states to narrow their neglect laws. So far Utah, Oklahoma, and Texas have passed “There are reasonsable Childhood Independence” laws that say neglect only occurs when a parent puts their child in likely and serious danger, not just any time the kids are unsupervised. Similar legislation are being considered in South Carolina, Nebraska and Illinois. With bipartisan support and sponsors, the Colorado law was passed by both Colorado Houses on Tuesday. It now awaits governor’s approval.

Hershberger’s children love exploring the area back in Reading. Now they are focusing their attention on something else: How to evade the police in future adventures.