this is "nightline." tonight, they left their young children get around by themselves. trying to fight back against helicopter moms and dads. now some are saying it's free-range parents who need supervising. could it cost them their own children? meet the new class of american royalty. these debutantes entering society is a big teal. an even bigger price tag. $17,000 fees. $1,300 dresses. and that's just the beginning. is the fuss really worth it? breaking the rules. he said he suffered disabling injuries during his time in the nfl. and he got $175,000 in workman's comp comp. why do we spot him doing this? many people clean their dentures with toothpaste or
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good evening. thank you for joining us. tonight you're going to meet moms and dads whose parenting style you'll either agree with or find disturbing. when they gave their young children some independentance it wasn't the kids who ran into trouble, it was the grownups. abc's david wright enters this new kind of fight for freedom.
>> reporter: ralphie and devora were walking home from the park in silver spring maryland when they were suddenly confronted by a stranger. not a gang member or a bully or god forbid, a child molester. no, the stranger danger this time was the police. >> right here. two police cars pull up over here. >> reporter: the montgomery county police gave the kids ages 6 and 10 a stern warning. >> embarrassed. >> reporter: the cops reported the parents to child protective services, who threatened to take the kids away. >> okay then you'll have to take my children. i rlsed then they won't release my children. >> reporter: under maryland law leaving anyone under 18 unsupervised constitutes child neglect. >> maryland parents are accused of child neglect after allowing their two kids to walk home alone from a park a mile away. >> reporter: suddenly this middle-class suburban family
found themselves smack in the middle of a national debate about parenting. >> every parent has a comfort level. you do what you think is best for your child and your situation. >> reporter: all of this was news to ralphie and devora. who are out on the streets all the time running, playing, crossing the street. >> it's very busy. >> reporter: but their parents trust them giving them the freedom to make mistakes. away from the parental safety nets. it's an approach known these days as free-range parenting. to them it isn't a fad. >> i'm parenting the way i was parented, the way almost every adult i know was parented. >> reporter: in the era of helicopter parenting, plenty of people wouldn't dream of letting their kids go out of their sight alone. worried about kidnappers perverts, violent crime, all the stuff you hear about on the news. >> is this a one-off? or have you heard other stories? >> nancy grace hears all the stories about kidnappings. i hear all the people who have been arrested for letting their kids play outside, walk to
school, spent a day in the park. >> reporter: lenore skenazy is a champion of free-range parenting. >> we aren't allowed to play in the backyard alone. >> reporter: the star of a new reality show on discovery life. >> the concept is that i go to families that are extremely nervous and overprotective and i find out all the things the kids are not allowed to do. i lock the parents in their house and i send the kids out to do things on their own. >> you bring helicopter parents down to earth? >> i make helicopter parents see what their kids can really do. >> reporter: the title of the show an insult she's been called many times. >> so now you're officially the world's worse mom. >> i've been bumped up. for a while i was america's worst. >> reporter: when we met her in 2009 she'd been dubbed america's worst mom for letting her 9-year-old son take the new york city subway all by himself. >> we thought, gee. you know, he knows the subway. he knows how to use the card that gets you on.
we sat him down we made sure he knew how to read a map. >> you brought him to the south bronx. >> right, we gave him a revolver and he got home fine. >> reporter: now izzy is grown up. well, he's in high school. he's an impressive kid. >> you think that's okay? >> i'm alive. after i got home i was ecstatic. i felt like i was on top of the world. so, very brave that i could really do anything. >> reporter: it worked out so well for it yzzy i decided to enlest my daughters in a controlled experiment, going to the playground. >> would you go over with deanna? >> by myself? >> reporter: 6-year-old philomena wasn't so sure. 8-year-old deanna did some convincing. >> okay, fine, i'll do it. >> what? >> she said she'll do it. >> reporter: going to the playground in the park right across from our house. >> how do you cross the road safely? >> my heart is already racing. okay, come on.
it's a little nerve-racking. be careful! >> we know already! >> reporter: and they're off. >> see you later! last one there is a rotten egg! >> reporter: i can't resist taking a quick peek. >> you're not supposed to be here. >> i'm not really here. go play, be careful. >> i know! bye-bye! >> reporter: the 6-year-old actually sent me a text from the playground. dear david it's me philomena, i will have lots of fun, i love you. in the end, they didn't miss me at all. >> it was fun. >> what do you think, philomena? >> love it! >> are you still scared? >> no. >> i want to stay at the park for as much minutes as we want. >> reporter: when i tell lenore about it, she's proud of me. >> i was nervous. >> you were nervous. that's totally normal. you're always going to be
nervous before you let your kid do something for the first time. >> i have girls. should i be any more worried? >> in this day and age it's the safest times in human history. we are living in the golden era of safety. nothing is ever going to be perfectly safe because that's -- because nothing is. >> reporter: back in maryland the metieves are still under investigation. the maryland child protective services declined to comment citing confidentiality laws. even some supporters of free-range parenting say there should be some limits. >> a 10-year-old should never be in charge of a 6-year-old. because of what could happen and the dangers of having the 10-year-old in a situation that they can't handle. >> reporter: they say they are the best ones to judge if their kids are ready, and if their neighborhood is safe not the government. >> frankly i think raising independent children and responsible children and giving them the freedom that i enjoyed is a risk worth taking. >> it should be your decision?
>> exactly, in the end it's our decision as parents. >> reporter: free-range partying is a hit with kids. >> the potential for our development. i love it. >> the other kids are really fun. everybody who sees us should go and do it. because we know that the world is not dangerous. >> reporter: the thing is they don't know what they don't know. and it's the most natural impulse in all of us to want to protect them. i'm david wright for "nightline" in new york. >> "world's worst mom" airs thursday .thursday night on discovery life. will she say yes to the dress? it's not even a wedding but these families are pulling out all the stops for girls as young as 18. if you have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis like me and you're talking to your rheumatologist about a biologic... this is humira. this is humira helping to relieve my pain and protect my joints from further damage.
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you're about to enter a world of hab rat proposals, high pressure events even puffy white degreeses. our story is not about weddings it's about debutante balls where young girls play princess for a day while wealthy parents foot the very high bill. sarah haines takes us insightde. >> a parade of princesses. this looks like something you'd see in disney world. >> reporter: they are the daughters of some of the most influential families in the world and they're here at the waldorf astoria making their high society debut. this is the international accident ewe debutante ball. the entrance fee $17,000.
and of course you have to look the part. >> the designer of my dress, oscar de la renta. >> reporter: going to the balkan cost as much as -- ball can cost as much as a wedding. it used to be about finding suit fors and eventually husbands for society girls. with so many dating apps and social websites the role of the debutante ball has changed. >> it's no longer a marriage market the way it was. >> reporter: today it's more about being seen rubbing shoulders with the 1%. we followed three young women during their big night. sophia from austin. leah from new york. and britney from kansas city. the preparations began months beforehand. it's a few weeks before the big event and many of the ladies still don't have a date for the ball. so they've come here to the bachelors brunch in hopes of finding an escort. >> can i have your attention for
one minute. we have a nice receiving line. the bachelors receiving line. >> reporter: an event organized to pair up high society gals with young men from military academies and ivy league schools. >> it's the other way around in life. the guys pick the girls, hey, come to dinner that kind of thing. here, it's none of that. >> reporter: the atmosphere is a little awkward. and a little flirtatious. >> i graduated years ago. >> reporter: for girls like britney it takes a lot of nerve. >> so i just show and up say, i would like you to be my escort. will you be my escort? >> reporter: she's an accomplished ballet dancer but this is the most nerve-racking moment of her teenage life. >> actually coming over to see if you will be my escort. >> i'd love to. >> cool. really? >> yeah, i'll take you. >> reporter: everyone quickly pairs up. with dates out of the way, now it's all about what to wear. >> this is cute.
>> reporter: 16-year-old leah, the daughter of world-renowned broadway producers chooses to wear famed designer cassini. >> one of the first debutantes you think about is jackie o. and she wore a casino dress. it's not a cheap dress. it's not a cheap kid. oh, she's ready. this was her opportunity to wear the great big cinderella dress with all the layers and walk a staircase and take a bow and accept her place in society. that's all the ingredients that she was looking for. >> reporter: leah feels like a princess. but says many of her friends don't understand. >> i've been laughed at a lot for it. it's a very exciting thing, very classy thing. and it's new york which is awesome. >> reporter: to many, a ball introducing young women to a room full of wealthy strangers can seem a little antiquated. >> playing the total definitely's advocate, someone who does not get this at all said to you, this is dumb. what's the point?
could you tell someone that says that why this is still relevant? >> this is a really good way to learn how to make connections with people that i've never met before. >> reporter: sophia's mother ada thinks this event builds confidence. >> when you're put in the spotlight and you have to perform, and you're so young, in front of thousands of people, you learn something from it. >> so first you bring your hands up with your foot -- >> maybe i should do this with you. >> reporter: tonight sophie yas most nervous about her bow. >> your arms -- >> reporter: the texas girls do a dip. >> slowly kneel down. >> why does mine not look as graceful? >> oh, no this does not feel natural at all. >> good, maybe i'm doing it right. >> reporter: it's time to head over to the ball. first up, the reception line. after hours of formalities and
introductions -- ♪ and a lavish dinner -- ♪ their moment finally arrives. >> when i'm there i'm thinking take it slow. don't run. also, don't step on my dress. my mind's flying a million miles an hour. >> it was kind of like oh this is it. don't screw it up. don't trip. watch out for the dress. that was the biggest concern. don't fall on your face. don't jennifer lawrence up the steps. >> reporter: and just like that it's all over. >> everyone was cheering when you walked out? >> yeah i was pretty relieved when it was all over. >> reporter: the young women may not have found their prince charmings tonight, but they certainly found friendships. >> the bachelors brunch where we could go and pick our escorts, i met caroline.
caroline from florida. and we bonded. we've got this friendship going. she's my best best friend. >> it's bbffs. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm sarah haines in new york city. next this former pro athlete played in the nfl. but an unlikely recent appearance on "survivor" has some wondering if he played his insurance company for $175,000 of workman's comp. huh, fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. everybody knows that. well, did you know words really can hurt you? what...? jesse don't go! jesse...no! i'm sorry daisy, but i'm a loner. and a loner gotta be alone. heee yawww! geico.
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finally tonight, a former nfl star now being sued for fraud over a big workman's compensation payout. after he made an awfully athletic appearance on "survivor." nbc's chief investigative correspondent brian ross looks into the curious case of the injured athlete on the island. >> survivors ready! >> reporter: millions of people watched as former football star brad culpepper, in the red trunks with white stripe led his team on the cbs program "survivor." >> culpeppers have dominated in this challenge! >> reporter: with the same grit he displayed on nfl game day. but it all came less than two years after his lawyers filed a workers' compensation claim, saying he had a disability rating of 89% and could not perform recreational activities without difficulty. >> going on "survivor" brian? that's a lot to deal with. and the insurer is upset about
it. >> reporter: now culpepper is being accused of fraud and deceit in a civil lawsuit brought by the insurance company over his $175,000 in workers' compensation payout. >> i think that he's a person they'd like to make an example of. >> reporter: but culpepper, number 77 a former ferocious defensive lineman, is not someone so easily pushed around. culpepper showed us x-rays and a fat file of meteorologistdical reports he says document his many injuries and impairments. >> this is bone on bone and it is grinding. i'm in pain -- i'm in pain every day, but this is not a sympathy story. i'm not looking for sympathy from anybody. >> reporter: nor should he. culpepper lives in a multi-million dollar waterfront mansion in tampa. and culpepper knows all about lawsuits and insurance companies. as one of the city's best-known personal injury lawyers. now as a defendant in his own
lawsuit, culpepper will have to explain this video to a jury given his 89% disability rating. >> on the tape of that show, you're very, very active. >> i absolutely was. >> that's a lot for somebody who's described as 89% disabled. >> okay, i don't know the value of 89%. i don't know what that means. i didn't come up with that value. >> reporter: on "survivor," culpepper repeatedly dives into the water of the philippines island. but the lawsuit says culpepper reported quite a bit of difficulty getting into or out of the bath and performing heavy activities around his home. >> if you have a hard time getting in and out of a bath how are you able to dive into the water like that? >> you keep asking me this. i was on pain medication and i had back procedure right before that. >> reporter: culpepper is also seen hefting big crates. according to the lawsuit he can lift and carry heavy objects only if they are conveniently positioned. >> how many times are you going
to -- because i'm on pain medication. >> if you can do this are you truly disabled at all? >> yes. 100% i am, yes. >> still able to do this? >> reporter: and then a clearly frustrated culpepper decided it was time for the tv interview version of a blitz, tearing off his coat and tie and shirt and stripping down to his undershirt. >> this is a normal bicep. okay? how does that one look? okay? is that normal? that's not, okay? that causes me pain. okay? there's people that miss an entire season because of a torn bicep. >> reporter: the ultimate proof, he says, that he is not a fraud. >> i worked way too hard in my life to have this as a headline. "culpepper fakes his injuries." can you fake that? >> reporter: culpepper says he has no regrets about appearing on "survivor" which he said he did so his wife monica who appeared on the show once
before, could have a second shot at winning. >> i 100% wish i never asked him to be on the show. for all that he's going through right now and being this insurance company's target is not worth it. >> reporter: once again, number 77 is back on defense. for "nightline," brian ross, abc news, tampa. >> thank you for watching abc news. tune into "good morning america" tomorrow. as always we're online at abcnews.com. good night, america. bulldog: mattress discounters presidents day sale! get up to four years interest-free financing on the entire tempur-pedic cloud collection! and, get a queen size serta mattress and box spring set for just $397. ♪ mattress discounters ♪