Going to school these days isn’t what it used to be. Kids are marched through metal detectors on the way to a disappointing lunch of arugula with a side of alfalfa sprouts. Now they’re ruining recess. Swings in Seattle are now forbidden.
Throughout the Seattle suburbs, school districts are saying that swings, a schoolyard staple since before Grandpa was a pup, are just too dangerous. Spokane and Richland Public Schools are the latest to implement a ban in response to the death of a 7-year-old Vancouver, Wash., girl who hit her head when she fell off a swing.
Losing a young life is a tragedy, but life and death happen. School administrators should not abandon common sense. Outlawing swings won’t save lives. The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests the better response is to make sure swings are of an improved design, with a soft rubber surface to land on. “Since the 1988 study, deaths from swing impact appear to have almost disappeared,” the government agency reported. “… The majority of fall-related deaths continue to be related to head injury, although generally not on recommended surfaces.”
Over a decade, swing sets in public places took the lives of 31 children. That’s far fewer than the number killed by falling out of bed, tipping television sets, choking on dinner, drowning in the bath or tumbling down the stairs. Frightened bureaucrats would do better to get rid of television sets, bed frames and box springs, solid food, bathtubs and two-story houses.
“As schools get modernized or renovated, or as we’re doing work on the playground equipment, we’ll take out the swings,” Richland School District spokesman Steve Aagard told a television interviewer. “It’s just really a safety issue. Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground.”
Once swings are removed, something else will become the “most unsafe of all the playground equipment.” The quest to eliminate all danger from childhood will inevitably result in taking out the slides, razing the monkey bars, carting off the jungle gyms and ditching the teeter-totters. Soon all that’s left will be a bare patch of grass.
Nanny state enthusiasts want every child to be encased in bubble wrap and protected by a helmet. This is actually far more dangerous than letting kids be kids, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission study notes. “An issue that has surfaced since children have started to wear bicycle helmets,” says the report, “is the involvement of those helmets in fatal playground incidents.” The helmets can snag on equipment and cause strangulation, but nannies wouldn’t dream of banning a helmet.
Seattle busybodies aren’t merely squeezing the fun out of childhood, they’re preventing kids from learning responsibility. Skinned knees and bruises and taking a tumble teach children to learn their limits. There’s only so high anyone can soar into the air before he comes down. If only the nannies could learn that they’re often the most dangerous equipment on the playground.