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Old 05-09-2006, 08:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Take the "play" out of "playground"?

http://www.katu.com/stories/85715.html

Quote:
KATU 2 News - Portland, Oregon
www.katu.com

Is litigation taking the 'play' out of kids' playgrounds?

May 8, 2006
- By Susan Harding

PORTLAND, Ore - Most adults can remember the carefree days of childhood, climbing trees and jumping from swings, often on schoolyard playgrounds.

Climbing, swinging and sliding was once a rite of passage during recess, a time for adventure, to see how high, how far and how fast we could go as a kid.

Today, kids find themselves grounded, victims of a culture of fear and injury litigation.

A growing number of school districts are going so far as to ban the game of tag and are even posting signs that read "no running on the playground."

Is there real danger on the modern playground?

Safety advocates say yes and want to eliminate it.

Their first target: swing sets.

They've convinced Portland Public Schools to remove all swings from elementary schools playgrounds.

But even a playground inspector finds the removal of swing sets a little over the top.

He says that swinging creates motion and is an important part of childhood development.

But the safety advocates don't stop there.

Portland Public Schools have also rejected merry go rounds, tube slides, track rides, arch climbers, and teeter totters.

At Grant Park in Northeast Portland, some parents embrace a new plastic enclosed play area, noting that the construction of the play equipment does not have sharp corners, and soft surfaces are used in many areas.

As for the disappearing swings at school playgrounds, some parents say the kids won't miss them, while others decry the move as overprotective.

And it's not just Portland that is seeing playground equipment disappear.

Our lawsuit happy culture has schools and parks installing low-to-the-ground play structures that some have derided as "dumbed down."

Now, it seems, anything with moving parts is a lawsuit liability, and in some places, that even means moving legs.

In Broward County, Florida, there's a new rule on the playground: no running.

A parent there commented that "no running on the playground, that's kind of like no playing on the playground" and another called for a review of what exactly was "safe" or unsafe.

So what can kids still play?

Not dodge ball or tether ball, that's still too dangerous. And in Beaverton, at Barnes Elementary School, rules there forbid the game of tag.

In Salem, an elementary education director says "we don't encourage the game of tag because it encourages fights."

But at Catlin Gabel, a private school, there's an entirely different philosophy at work on the playground. One where monkey bars, slides and other playground favorites are used daily by a roiling mass of youngsters, some who come away with skinned knees or other minor boo-boos.

Kids there are taking chances, even jumping from swings, and it's all encouraged.

An adult watching the students play says it's really the nature of childhood to take small risks and find out what they can do and what they can't do.

One child psychologist points to the rising trend of childhood obesity in defense of letting kids play like kids.

National statistics indicate 34 percent of kids are overweight, with obesity projected to be nearly 50 percent in the year 2010.

But safety advocates point to different numbers, saying playground accidents cause 200,000 injuries nationwide each year, and 17 deaths.

It's a debate that is sure to continue, as some say kids can never be safe enough, and others feel that if kids can't jump from the swing set and maybe skin a knee, they are not learning valuable life lessons.
And the speed at which my distaste for my own country accelerates. *sigh* Why are people so damned stupid?
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I wonder how much of this stupidity is spawned from fear of stupid parents suing the schools for Johnnie's scraped knee?
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:24 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Accidental deaths are tragic, but not as tragic as taking monkey bars away from playgrounds.

I liked the rationale that the children are learning what they can and can't do. It is logical. It teaches risk/aversion/reward behaviour.

Why in the fuck are we protecting kids so much? Are they made of glass?

Chicks dig scars.

But rationally, the people pushing for safe environments for children have probably had a child hurt by accident. They are having a tough time coming to terms with the blameless event, and are trying to exert some control over their lives. It is one thing to get a kid to wear a helmet when riding a bike, and it is entirely different to take away swing sets.

I think this might be a "Slow News Day" piece, and there really isn't anything to see here.
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:32 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Bah, I say!

I agree that perhaps some parents are trying to take control after something tragic, but I still don't see the point in this. This isn't like a bike helmet or a seatbelt or an athletic cup. This is taking away part of being a kid. What if the city took away youth football? Then the middle school? Then the high school? Then they take away basketball because a kid died once playing basketball? Sound farfetched? Even after this article? I'm sorry, I fell off monkey bars a few times as a kid. I got shoved off a tall slide and got kicked by a swinger on the way down, lost my first tooth that way. I've been smashed in the head during kickball, shoved too hard during tag and who knows what else. It's play, it's rugged it's fun, it's a lesson in life. It's a NEEDED part of childhood.
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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What we should do is invent artifical gravity and have each child float freely in their own anti-gravity sphere.

I'll bet these same parents let their kids watch 5 hours of TV a day and feed them McDonalds.
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:41 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The only classic playground item I won't miss, is the Teeter-Totter. I think they were solely engineered so big kids could torment little kids by trapping them 8' up in the air, with the threat of letting go and a swift ride to pain. That was downright cruel.

Playgrounds can be made safer, but outlawing Tag and other made up games is asinine. What are a bunch of kids in a chicken-run of a schoolyard supposed to do otherwise? Idle hands I tell you...
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:46 AM   #7 (permalink)
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One of the many, disturbingly senseless things about public schools that has turned me to homeschooling...
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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This is the price of the culture of litigation. Instead of playground that are cool we now have playground that are designed by risk analyists.

A few years ago, the Toronto School Board tore out almost all of their schools' playgrounds. They did so because of the risk to injury as deemed by some bean counter.

They have mostly been rebuilt with newer, safer designs. The ones that were replaced the soonest were the neighbourhoods where parents did some fund raising.


Ultimately you can complain all you want but when it comes down to it, we get the culture we deserve.
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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As was brought up in past threads here, this is just another shining example of how America is being Pussified. God forbid we let children grow up and experience shit. I fear for future generations of the repression of growth and the level of fear instilled in them.
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:00 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Do our KIDS deserve this culture? Do our KIDS deserve to not play tag? Maybe we, as adults, deserve it for not standing up better for ourselves, but they surely do not!
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:10 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I remember when I was a kid we had PE everyday at school. Kids nowadays only have it like once a week, so what is the exercise that they get? Running around on the playground, and now they want to take that away too. If that is such a injury prone activity are they going to get rid of PE next, for fear of lawsuits?
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:14 AM   #12 (permalink)
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That's when all the lawsuits will kick in against the schools becuase their kids are fat.
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:19 AM   #13 (permalink)
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My father is a landscape architect. He used to design playgrounds. He stopped at least 15 years ago, probably more like 20 years ago, because of litigation and professional insurance issues. This is not a new issue.
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:22 AM   #14 (permalink)
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It may not be new, but it is new to some. I find it an expected continuation of all the litigious crap we have to deal with in this country. Does anyone have a REAL and FEASIBLE method by which us common folk can try to counter this some? Obviously talking to local district officials and state legislative types... what other options are there out there?
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:27 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Apmle
I remember when I was a kid we had PE everyday at school. Kids nowadays only have it like once a week, so what is the exercise that they get? Running around on the playground, and now they want to take that away too. If that is such a injury prone activity are they going to get rid of PE next, for fear of lawsuits?
I think that's a separate issue. PE, music, and art programs are the first to get cuts.

I think it's great that they encourage lower and safer equipment, there is no reason why play equipment should have hard edges. Maybe kids don't need the 10 ft slide I had on my playgrounds but be reasonable here, they can have a 6ft slide.

Kids have high energy and if they can't blow off steam it will come out during class time. Then they end up getting diagnosed ADHD and put on Ritilan. Wonderfull.
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Old 05-09-2006, 09:36 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by kutulu
Kids have high energy and if they can't blow off steam it will come out during class time. Then they end up getting diagnosed ADHD and put on Ritilan. Wonderfull.
Or they become obese, sluggish fatasses because they're only burning 1000 calories a day.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:01 AM   #17 (permalink)
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schools should just adopt a policy of wavers must be signed before kids can go to recess. Then post signs on all equipment saying play at your own risk.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:16 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I agree 100%, if that's what it takes to save playgrounds.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:35 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I remember my first elementary school playground in the early 80's had no swings or merry-go-rounds. I asked why and the teacher said "too dangerous." So playground safety isn't a new issue, but banning running on the playground is definitely 21st century.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:38 AM   #20 (permalink)
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One thing that caught my eye was the protest against no running on the playground. In my elementary school, we were only allowed to run in areas where it was considered safe to fall, or not a hazard to others, ie on any area covered in chips or grass. Running on the blacktop or on cement was a huge no-no. It was against the rules on the numerous elementary school playgrounds my mother supervised. Running was only allowed if you were playing basketball--otherwise all running had to be done on the grass or another safe area. Running around the playground was against the rules on my mother's playgrounds as more often than not the games kids were playing with each other around the playground were games where other non-running kids could get trampled. So usually kids were told if they wanted to play tag or some other game they had to take it to the grass. Oh, and I started elementary school in 1987. So that's 19 years without running on blacktop and no running around the play structure.

I think people like the author of the article above fail to realize how dangerous elementary school playgrounds are, even with safe play structures. A supervisor of any such playground (and I've worked in this job) has to keep an eye out for a multitude of problems. The play structure should be the least of their worries. Strangers are a problem. Needles being found by students are another. Johnny punching Billy. Danny touching Sally inappropriately. Problems that started in the classroom and bleed out on to the playground. And on and on and on. Yes, kids need to run and play and do all those things. But we really should make the environment in which they can do so as safe as possible, especially considering how many students they stick on to a modern playground with a minimum of supervision. Playground aides don't have twenty eyes in their head, they have two, and they are the first to get the blame when Johnny gets hurt--which is exactly why my mother quit.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:38 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Take away too much of the excitement and risk and the kids will find ways of creating excitment.

For example: when we lived in apartments and the kids had nothing to do but play on the grass with no equipment, there were problems with the kids breaking into other apartments (even the 8 yr old neighbor boy had this idea on his own), pushing around the little kids, turning on the water spigots and leaving them run until the parking lot was one large puddle, digging holes in the yard that tripped the little kids, and getting into fights regularly.

This is asking for more trouble. I'm all for using wood chips instead of macadam under the swings and equipment. I recall more than once getting flattened on the macadam of my old playground and one kid getting thrown from a swing to land on his face - didn't see him for a month after that. But that was on a paved surface. Make the surface they fall onto safe. I can see avoiding the sharp corners, like the one on my old metal slide that ripped a gash on the inside of my forearm. I still have that scar.

But completely removing swings? climbing, tunnels, slides? no way. Kids need the challenge to physically develop their bodies. They need to run to strengthen their muscles, heart and lungs.

I can see this as a growing tread to avoid excercise and physical exertion. We're gonna end up with such a crowd of fat, weak, lazy slobs who are afraid to do anything that requires a little risk. No wonder our country is not as strong educationally or physically as other countries.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:43 AM   #22 (permalink)
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You want PE back in schools? Look at how your schools are run. Look at where the funding has gone.

As Kutulu rightly points out, music, art and PE are the first to go in funding crunches. This is not new.

As for blaming obesity on lack of playground equipment... please. It is only part of the problem. Have a long hard look at our national food chain. Take a long look at the farm subsidies going into crops like corn (not corn on the cob corn, corn used in process foods) rather than actual produce. The surpluses have been utilized by scientists to make abundant cheap food... but food that is essentially unhealthy for us.

It is far cheaper to by processed bad food than it is to by "natural" healthy foods.
/end threadjack

You want the playgrounds to be active again? Change the laws so parents can't sure schools when their kids fall and break a bone, or worse. It is the resulting rise in insurance costs that have lead to these measures.

School boards are already sagging with underfunding. Trimming insurance costs is just another column on the ledger.
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Old 05-09-2006, 10:59 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Charlatan
You want the playgrounds to be active again? Change the laws so parents can't sure schools when their kids fall and break a bone, or worse. It is the resulting rise in insurance costs that have lead to these measures.

School boards are already sagging with underfunding. Trimming insurance costs is just another column on the ledger.
I wish this would happen. Seriously. The amount school districts pay for insurance is crazy. Most school districts have at least a lawyer retained. The biggest school district my dad worked for had a whole law firm retained. The cost of insurance and lawyers takes so much away from our schools, yet people never seem to realize this when they sue. They don't seem to realize that the cost of a lawsuit is just going to be passed on to them and those around them in the end--in lost teachers, rising class sizes, and cut classes.
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Old 05-09-2006, 11:31 AM   #24 (permalink)
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As for blaming obesity on lack of playground equipment... please. It is only part of the problem. Have a long hard look at our national food chain. Take a long look at the farm subsidies going into crops like corn (not corn on the cob corn, corn used in process foods) rather than actual produce. The surpluses have been utilized by scientists to make abundant cheap food... but food that is essentially unhealthy for us.
I agree completely, but it's another step that makes it harder for kids to stay fit. Pop vending machines in schools? We had these in high schools when I was a kid, but nowadays they have them in middle schools, and from what I understand, the occasional elementary school. WTF? If you didn't bring a drink to lunch, you got water or milk. Also, lowest bidder foods continue to decline in quality in schools. I'm just saying, this is ANOTHER piece of a giant puzzle of failure that our children today are presented with.
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Old 05-09-2006, 11:38 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I remember just after I left my elementary school, the new principle had the monkey bars removed because of safety concerns. Then the slides. All that remained were the swings. Recess must have been boring for those kids. It was the highlight of our days going on the swings and monkey bars. I remember how proud of myself I was for climbing to the top of the one set we had because I had been afraid of the height before that. Thinking about it though, we were setting ourselves up for quite the injury if we had fallen down from hanging upside down. Still, I think children should be allowed to be kids and play at recess. It gives them exercise that they need.
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Old 05-09-2006, 11:43 AM   #26 (permalink)
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PE should be renamed "Fitness Education" and have proven methods of improving the physical condition of children. It should begin in Kintegarden and cintinue through the senior year in HS. Kintegardners will learn running, jumping, basic games, etc., and each year more skills and abilities will be explored. The exercises should be well rounded, including stretching, aerobics, team and individual sports, and even weight lifting. Activities will be taylored to the average ability of the students at the beginning of the year and raised by the end of the year. FE should not be graded pass/fail, but should get a letter grade just like Math or English (what use are Math and English if you've suffered a cardio pulminary failure?)..

As for lunch, no more: Taco Bell, pizza, burgers, fries, chips, sodas, etc. While produce doesn't give handouts to school, they are cheaper on the whole. Fresh fruit and veggies, baken lean meat sandwiches on wheat bread, and fat free dairy should be on the menu. I'll bet grades would go up just because of diet change.
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Old 05-09-2006, 11:46 AM   #27 (permalink)
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I can understand the ideas of getting rid of sharp pointy things and preventing running on evil nasty paved areas (been there, done that, hurts like fuck), but there are other ways to get around this, none of which people seem to bother with.

Kids bounce, kids get hurt, deal with it. I can agree with getting rid of the blatently dangerous stuff, but this is just taking the fun out of life because some fucking asshole wants some free money when his kid scuffs his knee.
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Old 05-09-2006, 11:46 AM   #28 (permalink)
 
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There is definitely something new to all this wussification.

If I recall correctly, Charlatan, you live where I grew up. I remember when the kindergarden apparatus of Withrow public school was first erected, back in the very early eighties. It was a two story structure with nothing but wood banasters to prevent kids from falling off. "The pit" (as it was called because, when I was a child, it was an enormous pit of sand walled by wood logs) was home to a slide the length of an entire hill, a one story bridge, and a two story fire pole.

I used to play excellent games of sand tag (tag where you weren't allowed to touch the sand. Quite a challenge in a sand pit) in the kindergarden apparatus (off school hours, of course) and the more daring kids were able to jump off the three story tower without injury.

Now, the pit is nothing more than a mildy sloping grassy hill and the kindergarden playground is just a giant sand box. The latter was a structure that was erected while I was in school, only to be taken down later by some movement that I can only assume is new...
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Old 05-09-2006, 12:37 PM   #29 (permalink)
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The solution is pretty simple actually. All children should be kept indoors at all times, under contant supervision, preferrably stored in a protective cardboard box of some kind, until they are at least 18 years old. This way there isn't the slightest possibility of a grazed knee.
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Old 05-09-2006, 03:02 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KnifeMissile
There is definitely something new to all this wussification.

If I recall correctly, Charlatan, you live where I grew up. I remember when the kindergarden apparatus of Withrow public school was first erected, back in the very early eighties. It was a two story structure with nothing but wood banasters to prevent kids from falling off. "The pit" (as it was called because, when I was a child, it was an enormous pit of sand walled by wood logs) was home to a slide the length of an entire hill, a one story bridge, and a two story fire pole.

I used to play excellent games of sand tag (tag where you weren't allowed to touch the sand. Quite a challenge in a sand pit) in the kindergarden apparatus (off school hours, of course) and the more daring kids were able to jump off the three story tower without injury.

Now, the pit is nothing more than a mildy sloping grassy hill and the kindergarden playground is just a giant sand box. The latter was a structure that was erected while I was in school, only to be taken down later by some movement that I can only assume is new...
There are two playstructures at Withrow as well as the pit. The "friend ship", which is for the older kids, recieved only minor changes... some additional wood chips below and some new railings that kids couldn't slip through.

It was the kindergarten structure that was removed entirely. It has been replaced by one that is "safer". They also completely altered the ground below so it is softer.

Now all of these are reasonable things, there is nothing wrong with safer per se. The issue is that the decision wasn't made in effort to be safer. It was made so the schools would be less liable to litigation.

The structures were uncermoniously ripped out across the city with no funding in place to replace them. It took a year or two to get ours replaced and there are still some inner city schools that are going without.
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Old 05-09-2006, 03:46 PM   #31 (permalink)
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kids learn by falling down and getting hurt. You have to let them figure out the bounds of what they can and can't do so they will know in the future. If you keep them in a bubble they will end up helpless in the future. This culture is way to sue happy and that is only because people want to get rich quick.
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Old 05-09-2006, 04:36 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Oh I really didn't mean to say that removing playground equipment was gonna cause obesity. Instead of saying "I can see this as a growing trend..." I should have said "I can see this as a small part of a growing trend..." Truely it is not the end all - to have lots of equipment. The risk of encouraging fights or lack of activity versus the risk of some minor injuries cause in the use of average equipment that is not sharp or in poor condition - I personally don't see it as a very good trade.
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Old 05-09-2006, 04:53 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ClostGoth
One of the many, disturbingly senseless things about public schools that has turned me to homeschooling...
But at home, there's the oven/stove, sharp corners on tables, electrical outlets, glass doors/windows, and if the kids have bunkbeds, woah, look out... and don't even get me started on fireplaces or large, heavy pieces of furniture...

The people that are suing, I wonder if they wish their parents had sued when they fell down at the playground. They feel getting hurt will screw up their children somehow, and probably feel that way from their own experience.
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Old 05-09-2006, 08:17 PM   #34 (permalink)
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I will say this much about the topic at hand, that safety is a great idea. Yay safety! But it should never come at the expenseof the kids ability to have a good time, and grow up the best way they can. May the pissed off parent with the lawyer in their back pocket be damned, and by god let the kids play! There were no "soft edges" on the playgrounds I had as a kid. I lived. So will the kids now. They really do bounce you know.

As for the rest of you, my hat goes off to all who have written in on this issue, not only on the level of intelligence, but how you all basically had the common sense to know what bullshit this really is, and what the importance really should be when it comes to kids safety, and their well being. Kudos to all of you my friends!
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:20 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by CaliLivChick
But at home, there's the oven/stove, sharp corners on tables, electrical outlets, glass doors/windows, and if the kids have bunkbeds, woah, look out... and don't even get me started on fireplaces or large, heavy pieces of furniture...
But see, that's my point. You can't candy-coat life. Sad, (and scary sometimes) but true. If I send my kids to a public school they'll be wrapped in wool and stuck in a nice, safe corner and forgotten...
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:22 AM   #36 (permalink)
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I think (hope) that CaliLivChick was trying to support your point, based on the second paragraph. But yeah, ClostGoth, I agree 100%, life happens and kids need to learn that. Sometimes you get a skinned knee or a broken bone. You could be a drunken smoker and live to be 100, you could be an angel and get hit by a car when you're 6. What are these parents trying to protect their kids FROM anyway?
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:32 AM   #37 (permalink)
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I think some of you are missing the point.

It isn't parents that are requesting these changes. It is administrations who are looking at the cost of their insurance and listening to lawyers that are making these changes.

Most parents are against these changes.

The problem is, there are enough people who are suing when their kids get hurt that it has gross effect insurance actuarial tables. When someone sues the school, their insurance picks up the tab. This causes insurance rates to go up across the board.

Once more it is corporate interest driving public policy.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:45 AM   #38 (permalink)
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In elementary school, I playe dodgeball and soccer on blacktop and everyone in gym class had to try to climb a rope and net to the 20' ceiling. I can't imagine how such irresponsible, dangerous things got into our cirriculum. I know that when I have kids, they're going to be issued level III body armor at the beginning of each school year, and I'll lead the local war on recess until the playground is padded and there'e a Faraday cage around the soccer field in case of sudden thunderstorms.

One time after school, my foot slipped off my bike pedal and the gear dug into the back of my leg, leaving me with blood gushing out of 13 chain-grease-filled holes in a nice, straight line down the back of my leg. Naturally, my parents neglected to sue the bike company for making the gear guard removable and the gear sharp enough to puncture skin, and all they did was take me to the doctor to get cleaned up and check if I needed stitches. I still have the scar, and rather than being something to fear happening to kids, it's a good reminder of what a dumbass I was (and still am!); I still remove and disable safety equipment on stuff I own all the time, but I'm a little more careful now.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:49 AM   #39 (permalink)
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I apologize for not specifying that my previous post was dripping with sarcasm. =)

And yes, the second paragraph was intended to convey my opinion that the parents of these children that are actually suing over a scraped knee must have some sort of mental deficiency themselves.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:50 AM   #40 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan
I think some of you are missing the point.

It isn't parents that are requesting these changes. It is administrations who are looking at the cost of their insurance and listening to lawyers that are making these changes.

Most parents are against these changes.

The problem is, there are enough people who are suing when their kids get hurt that it has gross effect insurance actuarial tables. When someone sues the school, their insurance picks up the tab. This causes insurance rates to go up across the board.

Once more it is corporate interest driving public policy.
As the self-proclaimed resident insurance expert, I just want to point out that this isn't "corporate" interest unless the school system is the corporation in question. The insurance companies will provide coverage for the district regardless of the changes being made, but they may do so at a lower rate. The district may also see it as being in their self-interest to make changes, as ridiculous as they may be.

I don't think that you can blame the insurance companies in this case. They aren't forcing the district to do anything.
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