Lunaya Pravda

09 May 2006

Playground hysteria

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

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.

But wait, there's more:

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.

The more I read about ridiculous things like this, the more I look at my own childhood in amazement. If we took all this at face value, it's a wonder my generation made it past our elementary school years with all our appendages. All the sharp edges, tetanus-causing metal, and wood splinters! My god, what WERE our parents thinking, sending us to the Playgrounds of Death?!?

Occasionally, I'll drive past my old elementary school during a hometown visit. Most of the fun playground equipment has long since been removed. I once fell off a concrete retaining wall on my school's playground, skinning my knee and face. Surely the school has been negligent in banning retaining walls - that retaining wall is one of the few features I still recognize about the playground today. Another child could fall off it at any second!

Maybe we should ban bicycles, too. Learning to ride is just an accident in the making. I remember crashing squarely into the back of a parked car when I was first learning to ride and hadn't quite mastered the concept of steering. Or maybe it was the parked car - that's it, ban parked cars.

This begs to be a South Park episode.

If I ever become a parent and turn into one of these overprotective nitwits, I hope someone will slap me.

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