Star-Telegram Columnist Arrested for Child Abandonment

Okay, I just went insane. I’m sitting here at my desk, yelling at my computer. Because someone just sent me a link to the story about Star-Telegram columnist Dave Lieber getting arrested for child abandonment. I gotta tell you, Lieber has driven me nervous. I’ve got a full-blown case of the howling fantods about what this guy did — but not for ditching his kid. Let’s jump, because this is gonna require some space.

The facts: the other day, Lieber was eating breakfast at a restaurant with his son, who is 11 years old. The age of reason, if you’re scoring at home, is 7. This restaurant was a few blocks from the Lieber house. And Lieber the younger, by his father’s account, was acting like a pill. He wouldn’t let Dad finish his breakfast in peace. He was ready to leave. NOW. So, after repeatedly asking the kid to be patient, Lieber ditched him. Got in his car and left. He was gone for “several minutes.” In the morning.

I say bully on you, Dave Lieber. Good show. The kid had it coming. As a parent, you’ve got to let those jerks who live in your house know that you mean business. When you count to three, if they haven’t done what needs doing by three, then there’s a price to be paid. It’s up to you whether that’s a hand to the rump or a pulled plug on the Wii.

Just so in this case. Lieber asked his kid to get a grip. Repeatedly. And then he showed that kid that his bad behavior had made him an unsuitable driving companion. Walk home, junior. On the way, think about the apology you’ll make when you walk through the front door.

Listen, my mother did exactly this same thing to me. I was 7 or 8. We were eating at a McDonald’s (I think) on Ross Avenue — excuse me, Cesar Chavez Avenue. [barf, cough, spit] I was being a brat. Neither my mom nor I can recall exactly what form this brattiness took. But she finally said something to the effect of: “Get in the car right now, or I’m leaving without you.” I didn’t, and she did.

So I plopped down and started to wait. Because I knew she’d be back. At least I thought she’d come back. Mom will come back, right?

Oh, of course she came back. Time ticks slower for young people. Her trip around the block felt like 20 minutes to me. When she pulled up, I leaped into the car, showered her with angel kisses, and promised to be a good boy for the rest of my life — a promise I’ve kept. At least that’s the way I’m going to tell the story, because her memory obviously isn’t good enough to contradict my version of events.

So the idea that Lieber was arrested for this is nuts. If there are facts I’m unaware of — if he regularly beats his son, if he traffics in barnyard porn — then I reserve the right to change my stance. But from what we know right now, Lieber should have gotten a pat on the back from the cops. Good on ya, buddy. Next time, if you want to use my Taser, give me a ring.

But almost worse than the arrest is the column Lieber wrote about the incident. It was titled “How Parents Can Learn From Serious Mistakes.” WHAT? NO!! Don’t bend to the pressure, man! YOU’RE A HERO TO FATHERS EVERYWHERE!! You did the right thing. Don’t get all wimpy on us and allow as how you could have exposed your kid to “grave danger.” It was breakfast! Home was just a few blocks away!!! AND THE KID WAS ACTING LIKE A JERK!

Lieber went on in his column to contact a parenting center and ask for their advice on how to deal with a situation like this. Listen, buddy, I hope you only did that because you knew you’d eventually have to face a judge, and the column would be a swell way to show contrition. Because otherwise, yeah, the paper should take your column away.

[taking deep breath]

I’ll turn comments on.


  • My parents left me in a hotel once, when I was 6. They got the other kids in the car, but I was asleep, under a mound of covers, and they thought they’d loaded everyone in. It wasn’t until 20 miles later they realized they were short their oldest child, who had been discovered by the hotel maid, still asleep.

    But I turned out OK. I think. Right? Nobody answer that.

  • My dad was in the Army growing up and always in the field or deployed. Mom had to raise 4 kids (mostly on her own) on a shoestring budget. So, when we were at the cheap shoe store one day trying to find a suitable pair of soccer cleats for me, I decided enough was enough. I gussied up and threw the biggest fit I knew how to throw in order to get the “expensive” shoes because “good” soccer players don’t wear the crappy ones.

    After I screamed at the top of my lungs – multiple times – she left. With my 3 siblings. Gone. So, as I walked the 4 blocks home after pouting for a bit I tried to think up what I would say to my dad to explain my current situation. Nothing came to mind.

    I thought about just running away, because then they would be happy to see me when I finally did return home. But, those plans faded as I got closer to the house with each step. I was 10 and I will never forget that walk home. Let’s just say that I never behaved like that again. Ever.

  • So, it’s illegal to make 11 year olds walk home from a restaurant?

  • JS

    Danger? Grave danger? Is there another kind?

  • Puddin’Tane

    That kid was probably being a brat and I don’t blame the dad for driving off, but that’s what the dad gets for not spanking the kids ass enough.

  • Leatherwing

    A complete overreaction by our Nanny Society. When I was 11, I still had a few more years to go before Dad stopped using his belt. I’m sure Lieber would have been cuffed, tasered, and beaten if he’d applied any type of corporal punishment upon the brat. (I can call him a brat ’cause I used to be one.)

  • Since we’re telling family stories, I was 7 and had a tummy ache while my Mom was shopping at Neiman’s downtown. I ran outside and began vomiting in the planters outside the store. My Mom left me to go back inside and finish shopping.

  • SB

    My dad would have just busted my a$$ in the restaurant. Then again, I guess you’d go to jail for doing that in public, too, these days.

  • Robb

    My son turns 11 next month. When we are home, he roams the neighborhood with his friends, riding his bike to their houses, the park, etc. And, some of his friends are a few blocks away. Does this mean I should be arrested? And the parents of his friends?


  • Brian

    i was in a car full of cousins and siblings when we had to leave the car and walk alongside in the 60’s and in Houston. I cried, everybody else laughed. We all survived and acted better. Not sure if that helps, but, we came out okay and didnt evolve a state agency. btw, I am in fear of somebody deciding to call 911 at my local Target at any time of the day to report a kid parent incident.

  • Towski

    Guy probably makes his kid play dodge ball and tag. What a monster.

  • Tom

    There are two separate issues here. The first is how Lieber handled the issue as a parent. The second is how he handled it as a columnist.
    One has to do with the law, the other his job. I don’t think he’ll face charges for this. The police were called, they took his son’s account, they went home. A grand jury will likely no-bill him.
    But was it proper for him to detail the incident in print, especially since it could be used in court?
    He has the right to discipline his kid that way, and for the record, I think it was proper for an 11-year-old. But the navel gazing nature of the column made it look like he was worried about being charged and trying to cover his backside with info from an “expert.” Not to mention Tim’s point about backing down from his disciplinary stance and saying it was a mistake.
    So my summary would be that Lieber is a smart parent but a dumb columnist. At least he doesn’t write about doohickeys on street lights.

  • Puddin’Tane

    Don’t forget washing dishes by hand and mowing the lawn.

    Jail time.

  • Daniel

    Whenever I’d sass back at my Mom, would she just sit there and cave in? Nosir — she’d make me dress up like a girl and parade around the front yard for an hour or two. Damn, I can still feel those dress pumps digging into my tender feet! But what Mom was doing was forging character in my nascent, bitterly humiliated soul.

    This happened like weekly, but without that discpline, God knows where I’d be today — probably living in a rental house in East Dallas with a dog who craps behind the television, drinking too much, and commenting on blogs when an important project is due tomorrow. Thanks, Mom!


    (P.S. The kid was eleven. Sheesh, I was already — well, never mind.)

  • JB

    Parents don’t parent these days because they worship their children now and are afraid of their children’s anger/tantrums. I think the fault lies with the Boomer generation who has raised their kids so that they must always feel happy and secure, even if the world can be a harsh place. Kids don’t play in playgrounds anymore cause their parents build them their own in their front yard to keep watch on them. And god forbid, you drive through a school zone with a cell phone in hand. It seems these days this “Cult of the Child” just grows more and more. I’m not at all surprised at what happened to Mr. Lieber in fact, its sad, but I think he’ll get found guilty and sentenced to the third echelon of Hell for his ‘crimes.’

  • TLS

    When I was 8 years old I ran away from home. I ran over to my neighbors house and hung out for a while. When I got home my mom went ballistic and told me all of the things that could happen to me out on the streets. Prostitution, drugs, muggings and on and on. Now THAT was some psychological damage right there!

  • Daniel

    Drugs and prostitutes? She just pointed you right to them?

    Everybody else gets a cool Mom.

  • Amy A

    My Dad still recalls fondly how he instilled “restaurant etiquette” into his children by making them sit outside in the car for the duration of dinner if we didn’t act like a “Lady” or “Gentleman” inside. I only spent one evening in the old Buick Skylark outside of Campisi’s Egyptian before I learned my lesson, but my brother turned the punishment into an act of rebellion everytime we went to the El Fenix at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway. He hated Mexican food so he’d act up on purpose to get out of eating. He was odd, what can I say.

    When I became a waitress at a family-friendly home of flair in the early 90s I actually wished more parents could be like my Dad had been, and why it seemed no parents taught restauran etiquette anymore.

    Fast forward to last week when my 5 year-old was not being a “lady” at birthday dinner out and getting a bit fussy and he told her “would you like to spend the rest of dinner in the car?” It was then I had to inform him that I would have to spend the rest of the year in jail if he tried it so we were going to have to find a new threat.

    While I don’t think it’s safe to abandon a kid in a car during dinner anymore, if I were at a restaurant a block away and could watch my child walk home safely I know I’d be temopted to teach a lesson like that too. If this truly was just such a thing, he should not have been arrested.

  • Brian

    amy reminds me of having to, after years of being a waiter or busboy, teach my father the correct amount and need to tip the server. So I guess we can teach the parent. back to subject.

  • Puddin’Tane

    TLS: did your mom also tell you about the perv in the van who wants to show you his puppies?

    Yeah, there are some bad folks in the world and your mom wasn’t so wrong for letting you know it’s not all Walt Disney Land.

  • Jay

    When I was 8 years old I was accidentally left behind when my family took off for a vacation in France over the holiday season. Once I realized they’d left me home by myself, I learned to fend for myself, and eventually had to protect my house against bumbling burglars Harry and Marv, who were planning to rob every house in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. My mother Kate was frantic when she realized that she and the family had unintentionally left me behind in Chicago, and she tried to make it back to Chicago as fast as she could, getting help from a polka band leader named Gus Polinski.

    My face still stings with aftershave when I think about it, but lesson learned.

  • sarah

    I’m holding judgment until the whole story comes out. If the scene in the restaurant was bad enough for some random person to call the cops, then I don’t think the 11-year-old son was the only one throwing an inappropriate fit. Shouldn’t parents do their best not to argue on the same level as a kid?

  • Craig

    If the kid in question was 6 or 7, I’d say Lieber had done something wrong. 11? Seems okay to me, given the distance from the restaurant to their house.

    But what should we expect in a day when we tear down playgrounds (Heights Park in Richardson) for being dangerous or ban kids from doing cartwheels (

  • Eff Reagan

    this is probably karma biting Lieber in the ass, he has pissed somebody in the Watauga DPS off and they wanted a little payback. No grand jury will indict him and I hope he sues the pants out of the city of Watauga

  • “As a parent, you’ve got to let those jerks who live in your house know that you mean business,” quote by Tim Rogers. I working on the t-shirts and bummer stickers now.

    Statistically, the kid would be in more danger driving in a car than walking home. Dave Lieber is a hero.

  • @ Jay: [standing, clapping]

  • Julie Blacklidge

    This doesn’t make sense. When did it become illegal to make your kid walk home?

  • mm

    You realize the cartwheel ban was in Australia, right?

  • Daniel, can I sass you?

  • El Rey

    True story that my grandma still loves to tell.

    One time, when she picked me up from pre-school, I pretended to fall out of her car as she was driving down the road. I actually just opened the back door as the car was moving and ducked behind the seat. She slammed on the brakes and ran down the street behind the car. When she came back to the car and found me giggling behind the seat, she spanked my rear and made me walk the remaining four blocks home. She drove about 50 yards in front of me the whole way and I never pulled that stunt again (at least not on her).

    Now, I know she did the right thing and so does anybody that has heard her tell the story. People are wound up way too tight these days.

  • publicnewsense

    The critical thing here is that the ESSOBEES at the Star-Telegram, white-hot for the oozing pleasure of layoffs and buyouts, will use this event as an excuse to dump the poor guy and then the kid will feel guilty for costing his old man his job and making life awful for the family.
    This is a bigger tragedy than we can all comprehend. It is a heartbreaking bit of foolishness on the part of authorities. Not every parent can be perfect. Not every child should be beaten with a bag of stale McNuggets, but some should. Repeatedly.

  • Craig

    @mm – yes, I do. Didn’t represent that it was from Rockwall or anything. Still illustrates my point, such as it is.

  • Someone Else

    OTOH…Leiber is a bit ethically challenged to begin with as a columnist. As a previous commenter said, there are two issues here: leaving the kid at the restaurant (which has provoked many memories, obviously, but we don’t know the whole story)…and the column he wrote about it.

    Problem is, he routinely uses the platform of his column in a self-serving and inappropriate manner, and he’s been doing that for years.

  • D

    Has to be more to the story. Has to. A 5th grader can walk a few blocks home without the cops being called.

  • JS

    Really, a stand and clap for that?
    (Ignore me, I’m just bitter that my A Few Good Men quote got nothing)

  • pk

    The column is two weeks old but Leiber was arrested yesterday? What am I missing?

  • Jessica Simpson

    [Dying laughing at Jay’s comments]

  • Jessica Simpson

    Sure sounds like Jay Lucas

  • KH

    When I was 11 … my parents put me and my 8-year-old brother on an AmTrak train from Union Station to Milwaukee, Wis., with a change in Chicago and it was our third such trip. It’s a different world these days, but kids are so pampered they never learn self-reliance.

  • AndyN

    Hey, Google Maps has added a beta version of walking directions. I found out that it was about 1.2 miles from my elementary school to my house (doesn’t say whether it was uphill both ways) and takes about 22 minutes (which seems about right). I was 9 when I started walking this route and when I was 7 to 8 years old I was walking a 1 mile route home from another school. Before that, when I lived in the country, it was a 1.6 mile walk to the little convenience store and I was doing that at the age of 4.

  • queuno

    Not a chance he gets convicted by jury of his peers (meaning, those parents with children that age)…

  • Matt

    I have no idea if that neighborhood is appropriate for an 11yo to be walking through. I do know that it’s a mile or more from Lieber’s house to the restaurant, not “a few blocks”, and I tend to think that when a self-righteous turd like Lieber is lying about one aspect of his story, he’s probably lying about other parts of it.

    Not that a mile is too far in itself — in the 70’s, I had to walk more than a mile to and from kindergarten every day. But that was in Bedford, a suburb, where it’s safe. And the women strong, the men good looking, and all of us kids were above average (with apologies to Keillor).

  • Morgan

    Maybe this is a living in the country versus in the city thing, I don’t know. However when I was a kid, my mom would send us outside to play and lock the door until lunch. Never saw the problem.

    Plus, if we acted up in public, all my dad had to do is give us the “look”. If you thought you could push the limit, well let’s just say you would spend the rest of the evening standing.

  • Story Lover

    Enjoying myself way too much. More stories PLEASE!

  • When I was little, I used to spread out all my stuffed animals on the driveway, and run over them with my tricycle, whilst yelling, “Road Kill!”

    I also taped ants to my paper airplanes so they’d have passengers.

    I also hated green beans enough to hide them in the hollow leg of our kitchen table, until they began to rot, and my mother figured out where the stench came from.

    I feel better now.

  • I’m so glad my kids are grown up. Think I’ll flee the country for grandchildren. “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.” I tried not to spank my first child — I beat the second one with a wooden spoon. Guess who turned out better?
    JB you are right — it’s the Boomers — me — we screwed kids up and made them Little Lord Fauntlaroys 24/7. We did this because that’s what all the shrinks told us to do. Don’t spank, make sure they have great self-esteem. It’s b/c we were all afraid they’d take drugs if they were insecure, I can practically quote the experts’ pablum. We had to have them reading by age 5 so they could get into Harvard by 10. I know couples now who are raising their kids’ kids because the darlings find parenting too stressful. So give this guy a medal: he could have just dumped the brat back with his mom.

  • My mom’s dad did it to her (actually dumped her on the steps of the town’s orphanage for a little while) and my parents did the same to me (left me at their friends without any word because I wouldn’t stop playing their Intellivision). Both times we each sobered up rather quick.

  • jrp

    my dad took a shine to a bunch of different german beers in the ’80s (St. Pauli Girl, Dab, Beck’s etc.) and i often accompanied him on trips to the beer distributor

    it got to the point where my dad would sometimes sit in the car and i would go in and purchase the beer (granted the proprietor had known me my whole life and knew the case of Pauli Girl wasn’t for the 11-year-old that was buying it, but for my dad who was in the car)

    anyway, on one more than one occasion my dad would dispatch me to walk the three blocks to pick up a case, and maybe a carton of smokes, as well, and i’d buy the beer and walk back home carrying the case

    now imagine what would happen today if an 11-12-13-year-old kid was spotted carrying a case of German beer walking down the street

    the kid, his parents, and the proprietor that sold him the beer would all get locked up…explain to me what good that does anyone

    we’ve lost all sense of discretion and have become slaves to coddling the immature and weak-minded

  • This guy would be on the Wautauga Police Watch list:

  • Liles

    On Thanksgiving Day in 1974, my family went to the Dallas-Washington game at Texas Stadium. I was twelve years old at the time.

    Our family would park at Valley View Mall and ride the bus to the game each week. Halfway through the fourth quarter, my Dad had grown disgusted with the Cowboys and insisted that we leave and get a head start on the traffic. I refused to get out of my seat. After a rather terse discussion, my family left me at the game.

    After Clint Longley threw two touchdowns in the last minute to win the game, I didn’t mind having to sit in traffic and then walk all the way home from VVM.

  • Matt

    § 22.041. ABANDONING OR ENDANGERING CHILD. (a) In this section, “abandon” means to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability.
    (b) A person commits an offense if, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years, he intentionally abandons the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to
    an unreasonable risk of harm.

    Google estimates it’s 1.3 mi — about 26 mins walking. On a 95 degree day. Down and across Basswood Blvd – 17,810 vehicles per day (TXDOT 2006), then up through a neighborhood or two.

    Yeah, I think his little temper tantrum led him to fail to provide reasonable and necessary care for a child. Particularly that bit about how the kid was trying to get in the car when he drove off.

  • jrp

    it wasn’t Crenshaw Blvd., dude, it wasn’t as if the kid woulda been walking through Compton or the South Bronx or North Philly or Camden, man, it’s freakin Tarrant County for chrissakes on a bright, clear sunny day

    what care was the child lacking? Mommy to hold his hand as he crossed big bad scary Basswood Blvd.? and it’s an 11-year-old not a 5-year-old

    it’s sad and troubling that so many people seem to think this father did something wrong…just sad how delusional so many are

  • jp

    Ahhh, what goes around comes around. Holding the NRH swat team up to ridiculous technicalities on a warrant. Acting like some school districts are Neanderthal when they are only holding up the state laws. He SHOULD be held to the letter of the Law and the peccadilloes he demands of all others.

    I only bet the NRH police so wish it was at a McDonald’s in their district. I guarantee there wouldn’t be a name misspelling on the warrant as I am sure they remember it letter for letter.

  • Lauren

    Who needs to grow up here? Leiber himself. You can’t handle an argument with an 11 year old in a public place, so you speed away in your car while the kid tries to open the door? It sounds like a teenage love spat before it sounds like interaction between a parent and a child. If your kids are flipping out so badly in a restaurant – and you react in such a psychologically immature way, then there is a lot more going on there than a kid just acting like a brat….and I think that starts with the parent. If your kid needs a lesson, stop eating and take your stuff with you. Drive the brat home and not take him out to eat again until he proves himself to be a more respecting kid – then take away the ipod, the Wii, cell phone, TV and anything else that is extra: legally you owe the kid a roof over his head, food, basic clothing, and an education -period. If brat wants more, then he can earn it back. As a parent you don’t have to show that you lost control and can’t handle an argument with a child, you’ll earn no respect that way – nor should you get any…looks like that is the root of the problem here.

  • KOwriter

    If you are a parent you’ve been immature with your kids at least once or at least angry enough to do something questionable by normal thinking. Just be glad witnesses weren’t around! Come on don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t know if he was uncontrollable, immature or what but give me a break.
    As far as walking a mile on a 95 degree day. Can’t tell you how many miles I walked with my cousin to go fishing by ourselves during the summer or just playing outside. You wonder why the country is obese when a kid can’t walk a mile or two on a hot day without it being endangerment.