Let junior skin his knee
The Richland School District in Washington is removing all swings from their schools’ playgrounds because of pressure from their insurance company tired of lawsuits from children’s’ injuries. They’re not alone. Cabell County, West Virginia, removed swings in 2010 following lawsuits. School districts are banning many things we did as kids that are now just too risky to continue.
Complaints about playground surfaces are a huge focus of lawsuits. When I played in playgrounds there was sand beneath the swing set. Sometimes there was bark. And some playgrounds just had asphalt. Years ago I took my grandson to a playground and was shocked when I stepped on the spongy surface beneath the swings. What was this? The new cushioned surface may cause less injury when falling on but it was hot as blazes. You could feel the heat through your shoes. What happens when a kid gets burned on that? You guessed it. There have been burn-related lawsuits over the rubber mulch flooring.
You won’t see merry go-rounds or roundabouts installed in any recent playgrounds. They’re disappearing because of injuries. Also, teenagers like to climb aboard while a friend uses a motorcycle tire or sometimes a car to spin the merry go round at insane speeds, usually resulting in kids flying off it. Go on YouTube and search for “merry go round motorcycle” and you’ll see plenty of idiotic kids tempting fate.
Years ago when schools started banning dodge ball I was incredulous. Really? Some decided it was too aggressive. Others moved to ban “human targeting” games. Still others cited bullying as the reason to ban dodge ball. Dodge ball was one of my favorite games in elementary school. Looking at a person right in front of you while slinging the ball at some unsuspecting kid in my peripheral vision was my killer move.
No one died. I doubt anyone is lying on a therapist’s couch right now painfully reliving the trauma of fourth grade dodge ball.
Weber Middle School in Port Washington, New York banned all hard balls during recess at school. They also banned unsupervised cartwheels. The Kentucky State High School Athletic Commission banned after game handshakes. Numerous schools across the country have banned tag, one of the first games little kids learn. Some schools have banned running during recess.
And I just have to add this even though it’s not playground related: The North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas banned sunscreen out of a fear that kids would… I’m not making this up… eat it.
I’ve gotten hurt at a playground. I jumped out of a swing and landed wrong. I’ve slipped out of a swing. Who hasn’t gotten hurt? The CDC says that 200,000 children are injured every year on playgrounds and the overwhelming majority of injuries are due to climbing and falling. Are all playgrounds of the future going to be massive outdoor foam ball pits? Or will we just have virtual playgrounds where kids sit at their desks with virtual reality goggles on and pretend to play while getting fatter and fatter?
Of course it goes without saying that there are legitimate claims out there. If a school or public playground has dilapidated, unsafe equipment and the district or local government is unresponsive and a child gets hurt, they should be sued.
But just because your kid got hurt at a playground doesn’t automatically make a school negligent or responsible. Perhaps the parent was negligent and not watching their kid at a public playground. That happens. I’ve seen little Johnny hanging upside down on the monkey bars while mom and dad sit 20 feet away with their noses stuck in their smart phones.
Swings and the monkey bars and all of their peril may be good for your kid. According to psychology professer Dr. Ellen Sandseter of Queen Maud University in Norway told the New York Times in a 2011 article that kids need the progressive challenge of high monkey bars to problem solve. And studies have shown that children who have experienced a fall before the age of 9 are less likely to have a fear of heights when older.
I’m not mad at the Richland School District. They’re doing what they have to do in today’s environment. But children can use equipment safely if they’re not abusing it and are following safety guidelines.
What are we, a nation of wusses? Life involves risk. Sometimes the answer to an accident comes from a doctor, not an attorney. Sometimes you just suck it up and move on. I did dumb things when I was a kid and by getting hurt, I learned not to do those dumb things again. Often when I got hurt I was using the equipment in a manner not intended by the manufacturer.
You’re fooling yourself if you think these bans are helping our kids.