Parents are perfectly capable of deciding when their kids are ready to walk to school - the focus should be on making the roads safer for them, New Zealand principals say.
They were responding to a Coroner's findings that a little girl who was hit and killed by a recycling truck should have been accompanied by an adult on her journey home from school.
Gisborne's Carla Neems, 6, was killed by a truck on May 2, 2017, when she was scootering the 450m from her school to home. She is thought to have been crossing the road by her house when the accident happened.
In his findings this monthCoroner Tim Scott said it was not acceptable that Neems had been making the school journey in the care of older siblings, and part of the way alone.
Her parents' confidence in Carla's road safety was "misplaced", he said - though it was not certain she would have been safe with an adult.
Coroner Scott's recommendations focused on the fitting of alarms and sensors to rubbish trucks, along with warning signage. A warning proximity alarm "probably would have saved Carla", Scott said.
But his comments on adult supervision have raised fierce debate with parents, politicians and pro-walking groups weighing in on when it is appropriate for children to walk to school without an adult.
The New Zealand Principals' Federation said Neems' death was a "tragic accident" but they were surprised by the Coroner's comments, which suggested no 6-year-old could walk to school alone.
On the contrary, parents were best placed to make "sound judgements" about their children's safety.
Every school and every family's context was different - including urban and rural settings, distance from school, how many roads would be crossed and how dangerous each road was.
"We have to allow parents the right to make sound judgments about the safety of their children when going to and from school and trust that they make the best judgments for their children. Many thousands of children of the same age accompanied by older siblings walk to and from school safely every day," the NZPF said.
The federation supported the call to retrofit warning alarms on Waste Management trucks. The company has been given six months to carry out the retrofit.
"When dealing with human behaviour we cannot legislate for perfection but we can make machinery and vehicles safer," NZPF said.