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Are There Too Many Safety Rules For Kids?
East Valley Tribune ^ | 13 October, 2005 | Hayley Ringle

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 that’s 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 they’re taking away kids’ creativity," Duffy said. "Schools are telling them how to play, and that’s 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 we’re much more responsible now," she said.

LETTING KIDS BE KIDS

Rhonda Clements, past president of the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play, disagreed. She said too many safety rules rob children of a chance to explore their world and take healthy risks.

"We’re seeing way too much adult-structured activity, and children aren’t 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 don’t give them that chance, we’ll 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 can’t play tag on the playground equipment, which is really fun," Kenzie said. "I wish I could because it’s fun."

MODERN PLAYGROUND

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 aren’t going to get their head entrapped in guardrails, that there is adequate surfacing under and around the playground equipment," she said. "That there aren’t 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. "That’s 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 don’t look like the playgrounds of the 19th century."

REVAMPING P.E.

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 don’t perform as well.
"We want to (teach) in a way that nobody’s 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 won’t hurt if they fail to catch them.
"We’re looking out for the masses," Jackson said. "I don’t think we can be too safe."

‘LITIGATION HAPPY SOCIETY’
Jackson acknowledged that trip-and-fall lawsuits have also influenced safety rules.
"I don’t know what caused teeter-totters to go, but I bet it was litigation," he said. "It doesn’t 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. We’re 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 don’t 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 didn’t," 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.

Safety sampler

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 children’s 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


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Arizona
KEYWORDS: boohoo; childhood; lawsuits; liability; nannystate; playgrounds; safety; schools; sissies; weenies; wimps
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My son was just stunned about the silliness of the school districts in this article.
If you go to the main page of the East Valley Tribune there is a link to a columnist's commentary regarding this article.
1 posted on 10/13/2005 10:53:33 AM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: HungarianGypsy

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.


2 posted on 10/13/2005 10:56:23 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Never a minigun handy when you need one.)
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To: HungarianGypsy
"We’re looking out for the masses," Jackson said. "I don’t think we can be too safe."

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.

3 posted on 10/13/2005 10:57:38 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: HungarianGypsy

The solution is to put all the trial lawyers in internment camps until we can figure out what to do to them.


4 posted on 10/13/2005 10:58:34 AM PDT by microgood
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To: HungarianGypsy

So I guess a shooting range is out of the question...?


5 posted on 10/13/2005 10:58:44 AM PDT by wizardoz
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To: HungarianGypsy
Why not just post a sign that says,
"NO PLAYING ON THE PLAYGROUND"?
6 posted on 10/13/2005 10:59:14 AM PDT by scooter2
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To: HungarianGypsy

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.


7 posted on 10/13/2005 10:59:48 AM PDT by Straight8 (Today is a gift, that's why it's called "the present".)
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To: HungarianGypsy

"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.


8 posted on 10/13/2005 10:59:50 AM PDT by pa mom
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To: microgood
The solution is to put all the trial lawyers in internment camps until we can figure out what to do to them.

Yes... nice, safe ones!!

9 posted on 10/13/2005 11:00:10 AM PDT by wizardoz
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To: HungarianGypsy

I got so fed up I gave my 12 year old the .22 and said go out in the woods and shoot some cans .


10 posted on 10/13/2005 11:01:12 AM PDT by Renegade
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To: HungarianGypsy

And here we see little Janey modeling her school's new uniform, designed to protect students from everything from hurtful insults to a meteor strike.
11 posted on 10/13/2005 11:01:14 AM PDT by LIConFem (A fronte praecipitium, a tergo lupi.)
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To: HungarianGypsy
must "power walk" or skip at some schools because running is too dangerous.

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).

12 posted on 10/13/2005 11:01:23 AM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: HungarianGypsy; Jersey Republican Biker Chick

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!

Owl_Eagle

(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,

 it was probably sarcasm)

13 posted on 10/13/2005 11:01:26 AM PDT by South Hawthorne (In Memory of my Dear Friend Henry Lee II)
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To: cripplecreek

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.


14 posted on 10/13/2005 11:02:19 AM PDT by clamper1797 (Proud member of the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club 1972-1973 and VA-93 Blue Blazers)
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To: scooter2
Why not just post a sign that says, "NO PLAYING ON THE PLAYGROUND"?

Not far off. Most likely the word "playground" will be jettisoned altogether.

15 posted on 10/13/2005 11:03:07 AM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: cripplecreek
Yep, too many rules for kids as well as adults. Soon we will have our kids in car seats until they are 18! Here in NJ it's becoming ridiculous! They want to legislate every aspect of our lives, from cradle to grave.
16 posted on 10/13/2005 11:03:32 AM PDT by alice_in_bubbaland
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To: Straight8

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.


17 posted on 10/13/2005 11:03:57 AM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: HungarianGypsy
Are There Too Many Safety Rules For Kids?

Yes. And for adults, too. And both political parties are big fans of safety statism. The "punish the class" mentality of safety legislation is one of the big reasons I stopped voting major party.
18 posted on 10/13/2005 11:04:29 AM PDT by mysterio
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To: clamper1797

Seat belts. A really good idea but a really really crappy law (except in the case of children)


19 posted on 10/13/2005 11:05:39 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Never a minigun handy when you need one.)
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To: HungarianGypsy

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?


20 posted on 10/13/2005 11:06:26 AM PDT by John Jorsett (scam never sleeps)
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