It takes a village to raise a child, unless your village is full of assholes

16 Sep

Sorry, I know, that title is inflammatory. My apologies…sort of.

But I read a post from the Autism Society San Francisco, where neighbors are suing a family, to have their autistic child deemed a “public nuisance”.

In June 2014, two Sunnyvale couples, whose homes on Arlington Court flanked a home occupied by a nine year-old autistic boy and his parents, sued the autism family in Santa Clara County Superior Court, alleging a smattering of incidents that had occurred sporadically over the span of about six years.


And of course, they’re asking for money –

• Monetary damages for loss of property value. The Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that neighborhood “concerns” about the boy “have created an as-yet unquantified chilling effect on the otherwise ‘hot’ local real estate market” and that “people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated.” For this alleged reduction in neighborhood-wide property values, Plaintiffs seek an unspecified sum of money as compensation.

• Damages and injunctive relief based on a litany of other claims, including abatement of private nuisance, negligence, trespass, battery, negligence—parental liability, statutory liability of parents for torts of a minor, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

• Attorneys’ fees and costs. The Plaintiffs also seek attorney fees insofar as they are “seeking to vindicate an important right affecting the public interest.”


Mind you – the family that’s being sued has moved to a new location. But they’re still being sued for loss of property value. Forget the money they’ve lost in moving, in renting out their former home, finding a new home, disrupting their child’s life.


Yes, the story does say how the child with autism, between the ages of 3 and 9 years of age did do some stuff – like enter the neighbor’s garage, taken a banana from the neighbor’s property, thrown stuff over the fence.

Yep, serious stuff there. Banana stealing. The kid obviously is a psychopath.

When I was a kid, the one neighbor had these two grandchildren. A girl and a boy, who were near my age. They kind of ran wild. They were a bit annoying (okay, at age seven, I would hide from them so I wouldn’t have to play with them.) One time, my grandparents stopped by to drop off something and heard noises in the yard, and when my grandfather went to look, he found the girl sitting on top of our wooden clubhouse, hammering rusty nails into it. No one was home, these two kids just thought to come over and hammer stuff in our yard.

Meanwhile, my brothers and I would play baseball and other such things in our yard. When the ball would go over the fence, we’d argue over who had to go retrieve it. One side was the nicer neighbors, the other side was the meaner neighbor who didn’t seem to like us (ironically, it was his grandkids who would invade our yard.) We all managed to live beside one another without suing anyone.

Then I grew up and I had kids. Kids who knocked balls into yards. Constantly. To the point that the one neighbor would just find a ball and chuck it back over the fence into our yard. Because that’s what neighbors do. Throw balls over the fence. Catch your dog who’s escaped the yard. Wave politely at the very least. Share whiskey over the fence (okay, that was only in Ireland, where we had the best neighbor in the world, hiya Freddy!)

But now, I guess, we don’t throw balls back over the fence. We don’t chase off neighbor kids who have dared to cross the property line, giving them stern warnings. No, now we sue our neighbors.

And that scares the shit out of me.

My daughter is loud. She wanders sometimes, even though we have put padlocks on the fence and an alarm on the front door. It’s like she has a super sense as to when we let the guard down, take the lock off while doing yard maintenance, whatever. You can hear her screaming through the windows – screaming because she isn’t getting her way, or her siblings took their cell phone away from her, or because her brother walked into the room (yes, that happened once). She will sing loudly in the back yard, making up stories in her head for her dolls to act out – I love that sound, but at the same time, I am waiting for someone to yell “Shut up!” over the fence.

We moved over the summer, and our new neighbors stopped to meet us when we were out front and we found ourselves going “We have a child with special needs, we’re sorry about the noise.” But we have hit the jackpot with neighbors in this place – one family has an adult with special needs in the family, another couple, the wife is a teacher, so when I said “Our daughter’s in the life skills program”, you could see the light bulb go off in her head, and I thought with relief “She gets it.”

When you have a child with special needs of any sort, you really do end up with a village to help you raise your child. Your village is comprised of medical professionals, teachers and other school staff, family and friends. But that village also includes neighbors sometimes. Raising a child with special needs is hard. Raising them while being surrounded by assholes who are more worried about their property value than a human being is mind-boggling to me. And yet a common fear among my sort.

Because that’s what we need, more things to worry about.

I am so glad my village is an asshole-free zone. And my neighbors are so getting cookies this Christmas!

Maura on the first day of school, blending into Seattle society with her 12th Man jersey.

Maura on the first day of school, blending into Seattle society with her 12th Man jersey.


Okay, so this post seems to have sparked some debate here and there, about how this is just one side of the story, that someone knows someone who read somewhere that the child in question was a total menace, etc.

In trying to get the whole picture, I did look up a local news article, which gave the neighbors side of things, that the boy wandered and hit kids, and they even called the cops on him after he was hitting a 4 year old. There was also a whole lot of “we tried to help, we were good neighbors”. And maybe they were.

But a couple things sit odd with me – like why isn’t the incident where they called the police part of their lawsuit? Why is stealing a banana considered worthy to be mentioned, but not the police call? And are all neighbors that nice that they’d all band together to help this one family?

Yet still, I have a problem with the lawsuit. The idea that a child with a legitimate disability is being threatened with the label of “public nuisance” and that he brings down property value disturbs me. No matter his issues, he is still a child, and still a human being. His worthiness should not be of lesser value than a house.

Also, instead of suing the family who seems to be having issues with keeping the child in his own proper environment, why not pressure the county to do more to aide the family. Get an actual solution to the problem. Because as much as these neighbors are talking about how tired they were of having to deal with this child…imagine how tired the parents are! And tired parents need help. The solution to the problem isn’t suing or moving, it’s getting this family more help. Respite car. Home therapists. A safer yard for the boy to play in.

And finally, I’ve gotten a couple comments of “But what if it was YOUR kid getting beat up?”

Well, it has been my kid. More than once, and more than one of my kids. I haven’t seen fit to sue anyone just yet.


13 Responses to “It takes a village to raise a child, unless your village is full of assholes”

  1. mamabro September 16, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    How the hell can you sue someone for them having a child with a disability. There has to be a damn law against that. Stupid selfish ignorant people shouldn’t be able to sue people for noises children. What if the child didn’t have any disabilities and was just a temperamental child who is loud and wanders and hell is just a damn kid.

    They shouldn’t be able to sue for loss of value on their damn home! They weren’t trying to move and don’t seem to be, and the people being sued have moved because they have made to feel un welcome in their own home, so there for that part of the law suit isn’t a factor any more. I would sue because I had to leave my home because I was living next to assholes.

    If a judge actually sides with these assholes or takes this case seriously or does anything but throw this case out then I am losing faith in humanity!

  2. Christine September 16, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    How terribly awful. I have lived in neighborhoods where the neighbors are selling cocaine. Or where we were awakened to a car hitting the cement pole in front of the house with great force. I’ve had kids borrow bicycles without permission from our garage and had to listen to loud violent arguments in the middle of the night. One neighbor used to have big parties with a live band playing spanish music until the wee smalls. But we’ve also had neighbors who have brought our 4 year old back from the very busy corner. Neighbors who let us put on a play in their backyard. Neighbors who put aside the best kid stuff at their yard sale & give it to us for free, neighbors who give us tomatoes from their garden and neighbors who babysat and neighbors who brought a fruit basket when my mom had hip surgery. I would much rather have neighbors with an autistic child than neighbors who would force a family out of the neighborhood & sue them rather than welcome them and treat them with friendliness.

  3. gh0stpupp3t September 16, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    My sister is an Aspie but I love her anyways. 🙂

  4. AnneMarie September 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    Holy moly, I cannot believe those people are suing the family with an autistic child!!! I mean, I can believe that it’s happening, because crazy things happen in our world, but still…I am so sad that the value of the human person is being attacked in this-because that’s what it is: a special needs person is a person like everyone else, and his or her value is not decreased. Goodness me, if people got mad every time I hit a ball over their fence as a child, I would have been in deep, deep trouble! I will have to start praying that when my husband and I move into a house someday, we get neighbors who aren’t into suing others. I am so glad that y’all have good neighbors!

  5. Darcy Pennington Arnold September 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    How heartbreaking for these parents! They deal with the doctors, therapists, teachers and all that goes with parenting a child with special needs. Then throw in neighbors who are selfish, obtuse, and beyond ‘assholes’. I only pray Karma jumps in and kicks their butts

  6. Dana D September 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I would like to apologize for neighbors everywhere! My next door neighbors have a cousin who is on the spectrum and he often is over to play. He occasionally comes over and sits in my car if I have left the garage door open. He really likes to sit in cars. When I find him, I tell him it is time to go back to his Aunts, or if he is being stubborn, I walk over and ring the doorbell and tell them that he is at my house so they will know where he is, and if I need to leave any time soon 🙂 Further over in the cul-de-sac we have a high school age boy also on the spectrum. He is a big boy! If we leave our door unlocked, he tends to just walk in. (What did you say about some super sense for undone locks?) This one can freak me out as I am cutting vegetables in the kitchen and he is suddenly peering over my shoulder. I know his family is working with him on acceptable boundaries. I have reminded him to knock before coming in. I try to be sure to keep my front door locked so he has to ring the door bell 🙂 NEVER ONCE have I considered suing – or even talking rudely to either of their families. We all have kids. They all do weird things sometimes! I cannot believe that this is what America is coming to. I am ashamed for us.

    • bluejuliej September 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

      I’m all for kindness and understanding towards neighbors + those with disabilities but a lah-di-dah attitude towards adult-sized kids with impulse control issues merrily wandering into other people’s homes and cars is a bit much.

      I get that kids, particularly ones with special needs, can’t help it but the parents of SN kids can be just as awful. I live in a tiny apartment in Manhattan with paper-thin walls and have never said a word to my neighbor with the super-loud, super-stinmy autistic kid (Tommy). Tommy’s a sweetie and doing his best. However, Tommy’s mommy has gone ballistic at my baby’s colic — the colic is awful, I haven’t slept more than 45 min in 2 mos and MY BABY CANT HELP CRYING.

      Tommy’s mommy is threatening to call the police if I can’t quiet my baby!

      • franhunne4u September 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

        Now that is just plain nasty. Maybe it is time to remind Tommy’s mommy that you and the little one have a right to live in your flat as they have a right to live in theirs – and your baby is just that – a baby. And I do not even have a child, never had one. But even I would not complain about a crying child. That is what some babies do more than others, but it is nothing the parents can change. Or they would. Tommy’s mother must have forgotten that her special little snowflake was a baby once, too.

    • Dana September 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      And what would you do if that kid started hitting you when he saw you?
      They’re suing not because the kid is “weird” but because he hurts others! With all the PC that is going on, people forget that regular people have rights too, such as not being randomly hit, bitten or kicked at.

      • phoebz4 September 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

        Actually, my daughter has been on the other end of such things. Two years ago, one of her classmates pushed her – and she was at the top of the stairs at school. She fell down about 12 concrete steps edged in metal. She has a couple huge bruises on her body. She had to be checked to make sure she didn’t have a concussion or that it would trigger a seizure.

        Guess what – I didn’t sue anyone. Nor did I get anyone fired.

        But my daughter isn’t a regular person, and because of that, I am no longer a regular person either.

  7. Joy M Newcom September 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Sometimes it takes a village to raise neighbors.

  8. saracvt September 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    Wow, & I thought our neighbors hated us! Our daughters have meltdowns & run out into the cul-de-sac, but a nearby Mom just tells me where the darling is & that she seems to be distressed. I HAVE had a lady, didn’t know her, haven’t seen her since that day, come to my front door & tell me oh, so caringly that my kids needed me & I shouldn’t neglect them (on the basis of, apparently, them being loud). She didn’t come to the recent block party, so I still have no idea who she was. She didn’t offer to help, just told me what I should do. But no-one has ever EVER sued or even gotten angry. And we live in a fairly quiet neighborhood with mostly retirees, who probably don’t enjoy having their golden days shattered by a semi-nude crying kid in their street. But they also know kids are kids & they DO grow up.

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