A recent procedural change has dozens of Canfield parents and community members turning to an online petition. 

The controversy all started over a decision on whether elementary school students can walk home alone. 

The changes, which were announced in a letter sent home to parents before school began, say that students who are expected to walk home must have a parent sign them out inside the school at the end of the day. 

The procedure change took effect at C.H. Campbell Elementary School this year but was already in place at Hilltop Elementary. 

However, it's a change that's left some parents feeling as though they've lost the right to choose. 

"I'm the parent," said Joseph Thomas, a C.H. Campbell parent. "Allow the parent to choose."

Thomas is one of the parents supporting the petition. He says the rule change effectively took away any choice. 

"These policies and procedures were never discussed in the public, nor, in my opinion, on the board either. So that led to a lot of questions that we started asking," said Thomas. 

He said when he asked why the procedure change was happening he was told that it was a "liability" to have the children walking. 

But Thomas argues that for some families not being able to have their child walk home places a burden on the household. 

"There's a lot of reasons why a parent might choose. Maybe there's a financial reason, maybe you have two working parents and in order to pick up a child from school, you may need to find further child care and all of that. Obviously, time can be an issue," said Thomas. "You know, there's a lot of parents like myself, within a three-minute walk to the school, who would much rather work up until the moment their child gets home than put them on a bus or have to go pick them up."

Thomas said that the parents signing the petition are open to talking about a plan. 

"Part of our plan, if you want to call it that, that we proposed is to have a reasonable radius around the school in which the child should be able to walk home," said Thomas. 

From there the petition also proposes that parents sign a "liability waiver" releasing the school of responsibility. 

"I talked to a lot of parents. In the petition, it's very clear; would you be willing to sign a liability waiver in order to regain the right to choose to allow your child to walk home," Thomas explained. 

For Thomas, part of the issue is also the lessons being taught to children. 

"There's a lot of great stories that people have about walking home from school as a child. I would hate to see our generation miss out on those stories," he argues. 

Thomas continued saying, "We're not trying to raise our children in a cage. If you as a parent deem your child responsible enough to walk home, it is good for them, it's good for the family structure, its good for your child, it shows them independence, it gives them stories and helps them mature and grow up in a lot of ways that picking them up from school and shuffling them into the protective car doesn't do."

C.H. Campbell Elementary currently teaches grades kindergarten through fourth. 

Thomas argues that while kindergarteners and first grades are unlikely to walk home by themselves, third or fourth graders are older. "At that point, it's up to the parent to decide," Thomas said.

Thomas argues that at the very least a procedure change like this one should have been discussed with the community. 

21 News reached out to Canfield Local School District who said that the procedure change mirrors those at another elementary school in the district. 

In addition, the procedure is similar to those for elementary students who ride the bus, wherein bus drivers are not permitted to release children until receiving verification that an adult is home. 

The school district's full statement can be read here: 

Safety is an enormous responsibility. After reviewing safety and security procedures in and out of our buildings we decided to mirror both elementary schools to maintain consistency in elementary buildings. Our elementary bus drivers will not drop off a student without verification that a parent or guardian is home. The new walking procedure maintains this same philosophy for our littlest cardinals.