When you think of being a kid at wintertime, what comes to mind? Holidays, certainly. Probably skating and sledding; maybe snowball fights…unless, of course, you grew up in Severance, Colorado. Until a few weeks ago, snowball fights were illegal in the little town. When the town was founded back in 1920, its officials adopted an ordinance that prohibited “any person from throwing or shooting any stone or any other missile…at any person, animal, building, tree, or other public or private property.” This blanket ban on throwing any object at any mark meant that not only could children not participate in snowball fights, they couldn’t even engage in target practice. That all changed when 9-year-old Dane Best decided to challenge the ordinance. He learned about the ban on snowball fights during a school field trip; afterward, he organized a letter-writing campaign. The boy then prepared an argument against the ban, which he presented at a Severance town board meeting in early December. Best urged the board to overturn the ban, arguing that, unlike children in the early twentieth century, modern kids need reasons to play outside, and snowball fights would encourage them to do just that. Best even fielded questions about the safety issues that repealing the ban might raise. In the end, though, the board repealed the ordinance, allowing Severance’s children to (legally) throw snowballs for the very first time. The town’s children have a new reason to play outside; they also got an important lesson in activism. The voice of a single 9-year-old, raised in thoughtful argument, was enough to change a 98-year-old law.
Kathleen Davies is a Staff Writer for GetLegal.com. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and has practiced law and taught legal writing and advocacy.