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Sun, July 28, 2002
She squealed with her girlfriends, and then hugged her mother, who had paid $208 to rent the luxurious ride for two hours.
"She's always wanted to ride in a limo," said her mother, Dawn Claxton. "And by golly, she's getting her wish."
As Cassie beamed, others fumed.
"That's just unfair," shouted Steve Gott, a sixth-grader.
He wanted to ride in a limo, too.
Several limousine companies said business is way up as more parents send limos for children as young as kindergartners.
Some parents and principals expressed concern. They said that renting limos for children could spoil them more than celebrate them.
Doug Reber's 12-year-old daughter, Allison, was picked up in a limo from Mill Creek Elementary School after graduating from the sixth grade.
Allison took seven friends and her 10-year-old sister, Nikki, with her. They went to the Country Club Plaza for frozen custard, and then to FAO Schwarz to get candy.
Allison loved the feeling of having a limo just for her.
"This real popular girl said, like, 'Is that for me?'" she said.
It wasn't, Allison said.
"We cracked up."
It was Reber's ex-wife's idea to get the limousine, but Reber agreed it could be fun."It might be a bit much to get a limo for a sixth-grader, but I think she enjoyed it," he said.
Reber said he didn't worry that the gesture would spoil Allison, who had requested the limo as a graduation gift.
If you make lavish gifts a pattern, he said, then maybe that would be a concern. But a one-time thing for fun couldn't hurt.
Allison agreed. After all, she said, it's not like she is going to expect one every year.
Michelle Beagle, a teacher of gifted students at Liberty Middle School and a parent of a seventh-grader, said that she had no problem with parents who choose to send limousines to pick up their children.
"I just think it's an individual choice," she said.
Child-care expert T. Berry Brazelton had mixed feelings.
"I think if the child is really rewarded that much, it's perfectly OK to do it," he said. "But I must say, I think our values in this country are really out of control. It's typical of our competitive society to push our kids to think that a limo is the most exciting thing in the world."
Mark Kelly, the principal at Pawnee Elementary School in Overland Park, Kan., does not support the idea at all. He even sent out a note this year asking parents to forgo the limos.
Kelly said he sent the note for several reasons. For one, the long cars gum up traffic. And two, limos can cause hurt feelings.
"If you have a limo that seats six or seven kids, you usually have an eighth kid whose feelings are hurt," he said. "They know exactly where they stand on the priority list of friendship."
Then there is the question of spoiling a child.
Jim Wink, the principal at Indian Woods Middle School in Overland Park, said, "Personally I think it's a little early. This is something for high school juniors or seniors to look forward to.
"I mean, if you have a limo this year, what are you going to do next year, and the following year, and the year after that?"
Janet Babcock has three grandchildren in Shawnee Mission, Kan., district schools. She is aghast at the idea of limos at grade schools.
"This is a disturbing trend, if you ask me," she said. "We are getting so rich now, and so permissive so early. It just seems we will give our children anything they want to make them happy.
"I just think we need to step back and ask ourselves, what are we doing? And are we really doing these things for them, or for us? I wonder sometimes."
Claxton said some people just worry too much. All she's doing, she said, is showing appreciation to a wonderful child. Cassie not only gets excellent grades, but she is also an outstanding athlete.
She is the only girl on the Kansas City Fighting Saints, a traveling youth ice hockey team.
"Cassie's not spoiled," her mother said. "She's a very well focused 13-year-old. She's on the honor roll.
"She had a real successful year with school and hockey, and her dad and I just thought it was time to reward her."
Cassie's reward included two roses from her boyfriend and a limo ride to Taco Bell, then around the Country Club Plaza, and finally out to Worlds of Fun.
So what does Cassie say to those who worry she's getting spoiled?
"Get to know me before you judge me," she said.