Skip to comments.Are There Too Many Safety Rules For Kids?
Posted on 10/13/2005 10:53:27 AM PDT by HungarianGypsy
Merry-go-rounds, seesaws and tall metal slides are gone. East Valley schools also forbid tackle football, jumping off swings and hanging upside down from monkey bars. Students can still play tag but they must "power walk" or skip at some schools because running is too dangerous. Pioneer Elementary School in Gilbert prohibits tag altogether.
And thats just the beginning of the rules that principals, playground aides and lawmakers have created in recent years to keep schoolchildren safe.
Johnson Elementary School in Mesa banned flip-flops this semester to protect children from twisted ankles and stubbed toes. Sonoran Sky Elementary School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District requires children to wear hats when they go outdoors a response to a new state law that requires public schools to teach about skin cancer. State lawmakers also passed a junk food ban this year to protect children from obesity.
And the Mesa Unified School District installed fences around its high schools this summer to keep students inside and protect them from lunchtime traffic crashes.
Gilbert parent Cindy Duffy said she agrees with some of the precautions, but she said many schools go too far in dictating what children can and cannot do.
"I think theyre taking away kids creativity," Duffy said. "Schools are telling them how to play, and thats their creative time."
But Deb Pangrazi, program specialist for elementary physical education in the Mesa district, said educators have learned from all the broken bones and other injuries.
"I just think were much more responsible now," she said.
LETTING KIDS BE KIDS
Rhonda Clements, past president of the American Association for the Childs Right to Play, disagreed. She said too many safety rules rob children of a chance to explore their world and take healthy risks.
"Were seeing way too much adult-structured activity, and children arent free to make their own decisions," said Clements, director of graduate physical education at Manhattanville College in New York. "Sometimes children have to learn through trial and error."
She said kids need a chance to be kids.
"When they lowered the height of slides, kids began to jump off the top of the slide," she said. "A child is naturally going to find a way for that risk taking, and if we dont give them that chance, well have a society of children that are totally sheltered."
Chandler Christian School fifth-grader Kenzie McGinnis, 10, said she would welcome more playground freedom. She said she misses games such as dodgeball, which her school prohibits.
"We also cant play tag on the playground equipment, which is really fun," Kenzie said. "I wish I could because its fun."
School maintenance workers in Mesa used to design and build their own playground gear for students.
But the wood splintered, pieces came loose and metal bars grew hot in the Arizona sun.
Susan Hudson, education director for the National Program for Playground Safety, said the first playground regulations emerged in 1981.
"You want to make sure that kids arent going to get their head entrapped in guardrails, that there is adequate surfacing under and around the playground equipment," she said. "That there arent pinch points or loose nuts or bolts, entrapment areas or entanglement areas."
She said the notion that height increases the fun factor is not always true.
"What you have done with height is only increase the risk, but you have done nothing to increase the challenge," Hudson said. "Thats why kids start to misuse the equipment. They will go down the slide backward or climb up the slide chute. What the child is trying to do is increase the complexity of the task. Rather than worrying about if fun has been taken out, (we should look at) what we are doing for the child. Maybe it means a different design of the playgrounds of the 21st century that dont look like the playgrounds of the 19th century."
T.J. Jackson, 47, has taught physical education in the Mesa district for more than two decades and has seen many changes.
He said teachers today not only protect children from injury but also from hurt feelings.
Students used to share one basketball and took turns shooting baskets. Now, he said, teachers give children their own balls so they can focus on their skills and not worry about classmates making fun of them if they dont perform as well.
"We want to (teach) in a way that nobodys going to walk out of here humiliated or hurt," said Jackson, a teacher at Hale Elementary School.
During a recent class, Jackson had his first-graders toss colorful yarn balls into the air. The balls are softer than the beanbags the school sometimes uses, he said, and the children feel comfortable tossing them because they know the balls wont hurt if they fail to catch them.
"Were looking out for the masses," Jackson said. "I dont think we can be too safe."
LITIGATION HAPPY SOCIETY
Jackson acknowledged that trip-and-fall lawsuits have also influenced safety rules.
"I dont know what caused teeter-totters to go, but I bet it was litigation," he said. "It doesnt take much for people to go that route."
Lawsuits have meant fewer swing sets in places such as Scottsdale.
"I think swings were the one piece of playground equipment that went by the wayside," said Scottsdale Unified School District governing board president Christine Schild, who also is an attorney. "Too many kids got killed or had brain damage as a result of falling off swings and hitting their heads on the ground."
Paradise Valley district spokeswoman Judi Willis said playgrounds in her district are reviewed for safety by the Valley Schools Insurance Trust, an intergovernmental risk retention pool that provides liability coverage to several Valley school districts.
The group also provides training for all Paradise Valley playground aides, said risk management supervisor Tom Bock.
"When I was a kid, we played on the swings and stuff and there was no sand underneath us, and no one cared," Bock said. "If you fell and got hurt, you went to the doctor and got it taken care of. Now there is more supervision but there are still losses. Were a litigation happy society."
Gilbert parent Chad McGinnis said he understands the influence of lawsuits on school safety rules.
"The way our society is with lawsuits and everything, I dont blame them from doing it," said McGinnis, who has three children attending Chandler Christian School.
NO END TO INJURIES
But the precautions might not be working.
Bock said he has heard that students today have more serious playground injuries when they fall, as compared to 20 years ago.
"Now when a kid falls, they break something whereas 20 years ago, they didnt," he said. "The equipment and grounds were much worse than they are today, with sand and wood chips and that rubber stuff, yet the injuries are often worse."
He said perhaps childhood obesity and lack of exercise could mean that students today are less fit and, therefore, more likely to fall the wrong way and injure themselves.
Each year about 200,000 children age 15 and younger in the U.S. are taken to emergency rooms for playgroundrelated injuries. Forty-five percent of the injuries are fractures, concussions and dislocations, he said.
PROTECTING KIDS: Here are some random policies and procedures from East Valley schools:
MESA: Children use beach balls when learning volleyball at Hale Elementary School. Children must not wear flip-flops at Johnson Elementary School.
CHANDLER: Impact-absorbing wood chips cover the ground under playground equipment at San Marcos Elementary School. Bike riders must wear helmets at Bologna Elementary School and outdoor drinking fountains have chilled water to encourage students to stay hydrated. No hanging upside down at the Traditional Academy-Liberty campus.
GILBERT: The Gilbert Unified School District has cut back on the purchase of swing sets.
QUEEN CREEK: Frances Brandon-Pickett Elementary School weighed childrens backpacks this semester as a deterrent against back injuries.
SCOTTSDALE: The Scottsdale Unified School District playground safety manual bans the following activities:
Climbing up a slide.
Hanging by your knees on a jungle gym.
Twisting or twirling on swings.
More than one child at a time on a playground ladder. Contact Hayley Ringle by email, or phone (480)-898-6301
Too many safety rules for adults these days. If you buy a bic lighter there's a warning on the side that says it contains a flamable liquid.
I wonder how he feels about Karl Marx? I'm guessing he wants the masses to be perfectly safe in a dictatorship of the proletariat, ruled over by a vanguard made up of first-grade teachers.
The solution is to put all the trial lawyers in internment camps until we can figure out what to do to them.
So I guess a shooting range is out of the question...?
I'm surprised Scottsdale still has those deathtraps on their playground. </sarc>
How safe is safe enough? Next the kids will have to dress like the Michelin man just to go to the bathroom.
"Paradise Valley Unified School District requires children to wear hats when they go outdoors"
This isn't out of line--these folks are in the desert. We have a friend who just died at 43 of melanoma so I guess it touches a nerve.
But let them run and play, for goodness sakes.
Yes... nice, safe ones!!
I got so fed up I gave my 12 year old the .22 and said go out in the woods and shoot some cans .
Yep, I've heard about "no running on the playground" rules for quite some time now. Makes playing basketball quite difficult. (Man, talk about a slow half court offense).
At my daughter's elementary school, they told her she couldn't play mumbly peg anymore and even said they'd take her dagger away if she brought it again. That crazy rule even goes for the sixth graders!
(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,
What there is ... is way too many wanna be nanny control freaks ... and way too many people who enable them. In my opinion ... if someone is doing something that does not DIRECTLY (that does NOT include the BS argument of rising insurance costs !!!) injure someone else ... LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE.
Not far off. Most likely the word "playground" will be jettisoned altogether.
My husband heard on the radio a while back about children having to wear helmets to WALK to school. He said if someone ever had put him in a helmet (not his mother. she would know better) he would have intentionally rammed his head into everything to make a point.
Seat belts. A really good idea but a really really crappy law (except in the case of children)
Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball.
Why don't we just dress them in helmets and body armor, implant GPS receivers, and instruct them not to leave their Panic Rooms in the house?
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