Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. What is the law in Alaska that shows at what age a child can legally be left home alone? (example: going home after school). Please provide a link with information about that law.
Dear Juneau Resident,
There isn't a law giving a specific age children can be home alone. In the experience of JPD officers some young children do fine home alone as early as the 2nd grade while others still shouldn't be home alone by the 4th or 5th grade. It really depends on the child's development level. Parents are usually in the best position to know if the child is ready to be alone at home after school. Parents have often tested the child beforehand by leaving the child while they run to the store or do other short errands and then see if the child gets upset or gets into forbidden areas. One JPD officer remembers a frustrated mother having to come home because her 9 year old son called 911 when he couldn't get his cereal down off the refrigerator. The mother said her daughter could be alone at a much younger age and she was being taxed by a son who needed much more supervision than her older daughter. Each child is going to be a little different.
If a person knows or should have known leaving a certain child alone would be dangerous there could an investigation by the Office of Children's Services or the adult could be charged with reckless endangerment (AS 11.41.250) which reads, "A person commits the crime of reckless endangerment if the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person."
If this question is in regard to yesterday's missing 7 year-old, let us be very clear. There was never an intent to leave him unattended. The details are between the boy, his parents, and the school to some extent. As a general rule, remember that sometimes kids get confused about where they are supposed to go. If the child doesn't ask for help from a responsible adult but tries to figure things out alone, the child can end up being somewhere unexpected. The initial investigation indicates no negligence or recklessness on anyone's part though the event is being examined to see if anything can be done better. Unless all the facts are known, it's best to reserve judgement in these situations. That is how most of us would want to be treated if similarly situated.