A school district in West Virginia is taking out all the swing sets on school playgrounds. Administrators ordered all swings removed from Cabell County elementary schools after being forced into a $20,000 lawsuit settlement — the district’s second swing-injury related suit in a year. (The other suit is still in litigation.)
Schools Safety Manager Tim Stewart told the New York Times that one lawsuit involved a child who broke his arm after jumping out of the swing like Superman.
The decision to remove swings is one motivated purely by liability. Changing national safety standards have made it difficult for the schools to defend themselves against lawsuits. Cabell County’s schools use mulch under their swing sets but newer standards require a rubber-based padding. The cost of the padding, the school leaders say, costs around $7,500 per swing set — too much to bring into compliance all at once.
Fear of lawsuits has pushed more than this one district into removing swings and other beloved playground equipment. Parks departments are also making those calls.
The schools in West Virginia will keep (for now!) the monkey bars, since the schools can meet the safety requirements (and presumably defend itself in the event a bone is broken after some child decides to swing from the bars like Tarzan).
Of course not all lawsuits can be summarized in one line (Superman style? Calculated risk!) and, perhaps, the swing set area was negligently maintained. Perhaps parents had complained for years and years. Who knows. But what’s sad, especially in an era where kids need more play and physical activity, not fewer options, is that making changes wasn’t a possibility.
Of course this feels ripe for comment from Lenore Skenazy, founder of Free Range Kids and mom made notorious for sending her 9-year-old out on his own in the big bad wilds of the New York subway system. More recently, Skenazy encouraged parents to take their kids to the park and leave them there.
Only if the park is fully padded and there’s zero-risk of injury, Lenore!
Photo: wsilver [via Flickr]