With Schools Getting Rid Of Swings, Litigious Parents Will Have To Search For Another Piece Of Childhood To Kill

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empty-swingSchools in Richland, Washington are getting rid of swings on elementary school playgrounds because they’re “too dangerous.” The district says it’s under pressure from their insurance company over liability for injuries. Translation – kids are doing what they do best – getting hurt – and parents are suing. Really? Do parents have any memories of what the playgrounds of our childhoods looked like? Among other things, recess taught us how to navigate risk. It’s a skill more kids won’t acquire if we take away every semblance of danger.

“It’s an unfortunate situation with lawsuits over the years with all sorts of different playground equipment, slides, swings, monkey bars. It’s just more of a lawsuit-happy nation, unfortunately, and it’s leading to things like this,” Richland School District Spokesman Steve Aagard explained to radio host Dori Monson.


Aagard said swings aren’t the only playground toys that are threatened. Monkey bars are another big one schools are being encouraged to get rid of. Recalling his own childhood playground at Laurelhurst Elementary, Aargard said a number of his favorite toys are likely gone.

“We had all sorts of swings and slides and teeter-totters and those spinning things. You probably wouldn’t find those at all now at Laurelhurst. Things have changed. It’s unfortunate, really, because kids can’t enjoy some of the things that we used to.”

Look — I get it. I’m a nervous mom. But elementary school playgrounds? Learning risk management on playgrounds is an important tool for kids that age. “Steer clear of the swings” could translate to “steer clear of the lightrail tracks” someday. Learning how to pay attention to avoid getting hurt is an important tool to learn as you move through the world.

It is impossible to keep kids safe on a playground. A kid could fall off of anything, really. Are we going to get rid of stairs and slides, too? Is the playground of the future just a giant, padded bin? Unfortunately, these decisions obviously have zero to do with what’s in the best interest of the children – it’s clearly just about money and legal protection. I just can’t help but think that the more “danger” we take away from our children, the more we are crippling them. My one-year-old had no idea that it hurt to trip down a stair until she did it. Now she is careful walking down stairs. How will our kids learn how to be careful if we are removing all risks?

I’m not one of those people who gets nostalgic for the playgrounds of the past, with their flaming hot slides and blacktops. But we’ve already made them safer. Soon our kids will be running in a field surrounded only by open air and there will still be someone complaining that grass is dangerous.

(photo: Lightspring/ Shutterstock)