An Umbrella Story

Hi Readers — Here’s a little rant from Down Under, on a rainy day:

Dear Free-Range Kids: In keeping with Free-Range tradition, my two girls aged 7 and 5 walk to school. Okay, I confess, the school is at the end of our block – they don’t even have to cross a road to get there, and it’s only about 200 yards away!

Today, it was pouring with rain. While climbing in the car and doing a quick school drop-and-run might work in normal families, I have three other (younger) children, so I made the executive decision that the girls would still walk, in raincoats and carrying an umbrella.

Well, my 7 year old  stickler for the rules was distraught. “But Mummy, we’re not allowed to have umbrellas at school.”

When I asked her why on earth not, she said it was, “Because someone might get poked in the eye. Really. We’re really not allowed.”

There were two ways of looking at this rule that make it ridiculous. Firstly, someone might get poked in the eye??? Really? How about a rule that says “Put all umbrellas on your bag hooks when you arrive at school,” or, “No using umbrellas as weapons!”?

Secondly, they are making the assumption that children either do not need an umbrella to get to school in the rain (because they are driven) or that the parent who walks with them can walk the umbrella home again. No accounting for the children who walk alone. Wait – there are children who walk alone? Really? Isn’t there a rule against that?

Poor Miss 7 had to flout the rules and walk to school with her umbrella.  — Janet in Australia

Janet adds that, miraculously, all the children’s eyes remained in their sockets,

47 Responses

  1. Janet, all I can say is Oh My God. I can imagine the terror your daughter must have felt, taking an umbrella to school, and picturing the principal expelling her for such an outright flaunting of the school policies and rules.

    For pete’s sake. Let’s not hold anyone accountable for their behavior, and have some basic safety rules like you pointed out (Pointed out, not “poked out”).

    Good for you! I say, “Do it again!”

  2. It’s a stupid and insulting rule, no doubt. I will note, however, that the eye danger with umbrellas is not from the pointy end nor from the damage that might be done should some young scholars decide their umbrellas might make tolerable light sabers, but from all those poky rib ends of an open umbrella, right at eye level amidst a sea of jostling children who may or may not know much about umbrella safety.

    Not that that’s any excuse for not giving them the opportunity to learn and practice umbrella safety in real life, especially considering that the “sea of jostling children” would be more of a puddle, given the number of parents who would prefer to drive their kids down the block.

  3. I like the rule “no using umbrellas as a weapon.” — I mean, why doesn’t anyone think about making that a rule??? Or why not have a place where to put the umbrellas, right at the entrance hall? It could be so easy…

    So long,

  4. Unfortunately rulemaking isn’t always the forte of a school’s administration. Instead of banning umbrella’s outright, they could include a lot of nuance, like umbrellas are allowed, but leave them at the door when you enter. If any eyes are poked out then, it’s outside your liability.

    Besides, if umbrellas are a risk because someone’s eye might get poked out, we might as well start banning pens, pencils and cafeteria cutlery…

  5. Just to point this out, it’s possible that your child misunderstood or is misapplying the rule. I’ve had my niece tell me all sorts of improbable things which, upon checking with the school, turned out not to be true. (Like the time she told me her teacher didn’t LET her eat her lunch, or the time she said she’s not allowed to even play handclapping games at lunch because it’s “hitting”, or the time she claimed her teacher deliberately didn’t give her stickers because she wasn’t 100% perfect (for this, I went immediately to the teacher and confirmed that, no, she’d just run out of stickers that day!), or the time she told me she’s not allowed to get up to drink water or go to the bathroom ever… and when I observed the class one day I saw that the bathroom is IN THE CLASSROOM, as is the water fountain, and these kids don’t even raise their hands to go, they just up and come back!)

    It’s possible the rule is “no playing with umbrellas” or “no opening umbrellas in school” or “no umbrellas on sunny days” or “umbrellas have to stay in your cubby”, but the kid got a little jumbled. It might even be that this is one teacher’s peeve and not a school rule.

    Ask the school directly and see what they say.

    As far as poking kids’ eyes out, trufax, one day in high school (at Stuy, where people are supposed to be smarter than this) I heard the story from two different teachers that two boys had cut class and had a swordfight with their umbrellas and, yes, one of them really had gotten the other in the eye… and the school was refusing to pay for damages because they were supposed to be in class. I’m not sure if the moral here was “Don’t cut class” or “If you’re GONNA cut class, don’t be stupid”, but I remember it years later.

    But you know, they didn’t even ban wrestling and breakdancing in the halls when some kid hit his head funny and had a seizure. Of course, nobody was allowed on the 5th floor roof outside the cafeteria…. (Apparently they thought it was a suicide risk. Here the school had this wonderful place to eat lunch outside, and they wouldn’t let anybody use it. But I think some kids really had jumped the first few years of the building being opened. Of course, if they hadn’t they would’ve killed themselves somewhere else.)

  6. If the entire sea of jostling children had umbrellas, then the all eyes would be protected, no?

  7. Or they could wear raincoats…

  8. KFHmama:”If the entire sea of jostling children had umbrellas, then the all eyes would be protected, no?”

    No. As a short person I can tell you many adults have no idea about considerate umbrella use. In the rain I frequently have to hold my hand up in front of my eyes to stop from being hit with the prongy bits of umbrellas by folks who don’t seem to be aware that they take up a lot more sidewalk space when using them.

    I don’t think this means a school should have a no umbrella rule – in fact I think schools teaching proper umbrella use would be a boon. But I doubt any rule banning umbrellas (if, as Uly points out, there actually is one) is because too many kids are fencing with them. It’s seems more likely to be because walking around with an umbrella puts shorter people at risk of being scratched and poked by them.

  9. During the 2002 – 2003 school year I had a rule that students were required to keep umbrella or rain coat in their backpacks. we were in the farthest portable from the building and were in the subtropics with lots of rain. When parents pitched fits because their child spent the day soaked to the bone – I pointed to the form they signed saying they understood the children were to have foul weather gear in their backpacks. I even had a bucket to put the wet umbrellas in to dry.

  10. Wait, Kimberly – you’re saying they were supposed to have spare rain gear with them at all times, right? Not that they were required, on rainy days, to keep their sopping wet things in their bags with their papers and books.

  11. Uly, I’m pretty sure she meant they had to have the gear in their backpacks for use in case it rained. I had to read it twice too 😉

  12. The first time through, it made no sense, but I want to make sure I’m clear now. If I am clear – duh, it’s not like she didn’t tell the parents!

  13. Don’t tell my son. He’s still angry that they don’t allow kids to bike to school in Arlington, MA, and we don’t even live there.

  14. This reminds me of a rule our elementary school has. My youngest is still in elementary, and the school is within walking distance. So she walks to and from school each day – alone except for when she meets up with other friends (many who have moms accompanying them).

    Anyway, the school has a rule that if it’s raining when school ends, they put a marker outside of the door and this means that walkers are supposed to be picked up. What? This drives me crazy. My child won’t melt in the rain. She usually has an umbrella in her bag when we’re expecting rain. Big storm happening, then I’ll pick her up. No sense taking a risk in a lightening storm. But just raining? Crazy.

  15. Well, if it is a rule “no umbrellas allowed”, by their reasoning, there shouldn’t be any pens, pencils, paint brushes. There shouldn’t be anything that is pointy and can poke someone in the eye. In fact, there’s more chance a kid can poke another kid in the eye with their finger. Do they cut them off and leave them at home too? Ridiculous. But then again, a lot of people these days are just that. Ridiculous. And only because they have to deal with other ridiculous people who make a big stink so that rules like this are created.

    Mind you, there are umbrellas that don’t have a pointy end.

  16. @Leasa…I loved walking home in the rain. One of the main things about being a kid is playing in the rain. Getting soaked was a treat. During recess, all the kids would go out in the pouring rain to play tag on the jungle gyms and monkey bars. I even remember walking to school with my little brother (I was 8 he was 6) during a hurricane. We were literally leaning at about a 60 degree angle and the wind was keeping us from falling forward. I remember being late for school because we were to busy having fun leaning. lol Mind you we live in the city, so it wasn’t like there were mailboxes and cars flying around. No trees to fall over. Just high winds.

    If only the kids these days can experience what we did, they’d be so much different. IMO, they’d be better well rounded, healthy kids. Mentally and physically. It’s sad that parents who believe in free-range parenting are constantly met with roadblocks, such as these rules. Really, it’s NOT for the kids. It’s to cover the school or establishment from any lawsuits or complaints filed by the parents. Again…it all starts with dumbass, paranoid parents. Are perpetual circle of fear I tell you.

  17. The first thing that popped into my head upon reading this was – Some schools are like that, even in Australia.

  18. Thank you, Mike!

    You know, some people don’t like that book? It’s too “negative”. The word “hate” shouldn’t be in a children’s book. There’s no “moral” at the end. Alexander “whines” and THEIR children don’t do that. (At this last, I burst out laughing. No. Earlthy. WAY.) One thing I like to do sometimes is read Amazon reviews with the intent of mocking them.

  19. I was just notified that at my kids’ elementary school they are not allowed to bring in their yearbooks (which cost $20 a pop!) to have their friends sign. Apparently last year some parent complained that their kid’s book was passed around without him knowing, and signed by other kids. GASP! What’s the point in a yearbook if you can’t have your friends write in it? Had I known, I would have ordered just one for all 3 of my kids to share.

  20. Thunderstorms are frequent in afternoons in hot weather and Late Jan – early march frequent rain is normal. So they were to have bad weather gear with them at all times.

    Most just had umbrella’s but a few had ponchos or rain coats. When it did rain, I had a bucket to put dripping umbrellas in and we would hang the ponchos/rain coats over a plastic tub to dry. (carpeted floors).

    I never understood how parents expected me to get kids from the building into the portable and vis versa in a driving thunderstorm and them not be soaked. I had one parent scream at me “You should put up a cover”. I told her to take her complaint to the district level because we had been requesting a covered walk way for years.

    We got a new principal – and she used the magic words we got the covered walk way. Doesn’t help when the water is going sideways but they get evacuated into the building during high winds.

  21. “It was passed around without his permission and his friends signed it” sounds to me, Bonnie, like code for “People wrote nasty things about him in the yearbook”. In which case students should be warned that yearbooks aren’t an excuse for meanness and bullying, and told to keep an eye on it.

  22. I think so many of these rules are born from fear of litigation and insurance requirements, which makes me crazy on a different level.

    I’m with helenique though, I do hate umbrellas because of all the times I’ve been poked by the sharp spokes. OW. I’ve kept my eyes, at least!

  23. Not to side with the school, but umbrellas are generally, imo, a pain in the backside. Get the kids gortex raincoats and hats. It will keep them dryer, really, and their hands free.

  24. Our kid’s school also has the no umbrella rule, so I do believe it exists, but its not enforced at all. My kids bring umbrellas, and so do many others. At the beginning of each year, we get a notice with “safety rules” , where they ask parents to please keep things in mind such as: no scarves in winter (in case it gets caught, and they choke), no strings in hoodies (same reason), and no umbrellas. But, I haven’t followed those “rules”, and I’ve never received a complaint. I know many of the kids use umbrellas.

  25. Silly school! Don’t they know pencils are WAY better for poking out eyes than umbrella tips?

  26. Bonnie, my school had a year book dance where the whole point was bringing your books to be signed. And when it was over, we all went to a park and signed yearbooks until 2 a.m.

    Uly, that is the best book ever and I hate those people who hate it. It’s fiction! Get over it! Kids can learn that sometimes the day is crappy, but it gets better! Sheesh!

    Pretty unrelated, but I STILL love playing in the rain. I love running and jumping through the puddles in the parking lot on my way in to work.

  27. i live in australia and my 7 year old loves to take her umbrella to school… stays in her bag though.. thats rediculous!!

  28. Is it possible your daughter misunderstood the rule, and they simply must put umbrellas away upon arriving at school? My 6 year old frequently reports “rules” to me that, when I directly ask the teacher about them, turn out to be not quite what she thought they were.

  29. She got off very easy.

    Locally we have a zero tolerance policy regarding bringing weapons to school. Not only would the umbrella be confiscated, but DCS would be brought in to take custody of the children, and both the parents would be charged with separate counts of child neglect and child abuse, arrested, and put in the county lock up until they could post $20,000 bond.

  30. Scott, can you PROVE this would happen (has happened) over an umbrella? Or has this only happened with regards to actual weapons? I’m not saying I necessarily agree with that extreme for, say, a pocketknife, but let’s not start our own urban legends and scare tactics.

  31. Uly, that is the best book ever and I hate those people who hate it. It’s fiction! Get over it! Kids can learn that sometimes the day is crappy, but it gets better! Sheesh!

    Better not say that there! “The only reason people like this is because they are hateful. When you teach children how to hate in childhood, they grow up to be mean hateful people”. This is very nearly verbatim from the comments of some annoying chick who thought it was her job to comment on EVERY. SINGLE. REVIEW. over at amazon.

  32. Umbrellas are an encumbrance. Better to gear them up with bibs and a raincoat.

  33. Not to be dense… but… what’s a “portable”?

  34. Easy solution to this dilemma, one that can keep everyone who walks dry, and at the same time keep all the innocent little eyes from being poked. SAFETY GOGGLES at all times when on school property. Heck sometimes goggles fog up, the chilfdren may not be able to see as well while negotiating a staircase, so helmets are advised as well. That is until we tear down all the multi-level schools and build single story buildings with gently sloping ramps instead of stairs.

  35. Damm*t Janet! And how about lightning strikes?! Hmmm? Those umbrellas are just asking to be struck by lightning in the rain. Heaven forbid that our kids should be allowed to walk to school by themselves, and with UMBRELLAS no less! Oh the horror!

    Seriously, though, I’m glad you let the water roll off the duck’s back and told Miss 7 to take the umbrella anyway! We wouldn’t want her to catch a cold, now would we? ;o)

    @singlemom – a portable is a separate building at a school, usually a manufactured home that’s been outfitted to hold classrooms, hence the term “portable”. They’re becoming more common in a lot of places because of population growth and are cheaper to use than building new facilities on existing school properties.

  36. Uly – You’ve created a couple of monsters now. My husband and I just spent a few. Very amusing minutes reading those comments and the replies to them. I hadn’t read the book in a while so I hunted it down for a quick reread and then left it where my four year old is sure to notice.

    Singlemom – when the school population gets higher than the building can accommodate, they add portable classrooms in the yard.

  37. My kids were notorious for over exaggerating the rules. But there are enough legitimately stupid ones that I wouldn’t be too surprised if umbrellas weren’t allowed. Personally, I can never find one when one is needed because someone was using it as a parasol on a sunny day. So they get soaked waiting for the bus. And do I feel bad? Not in the least.

    That book Uly mentioned was such a favorite in my daughter’s first grade class, they made a play about it. It was adorable and very funny! THe kids found the humor in it that most of the adults writing the reviews couldn’t see.

  38. singlemom – sorry these are tin shack portable classrooms up on blocks. When a school is over populated they are used to house classes. They are sometimes called temporaries.

    My school was built to house about 500 kids – we have near to 700 and that is if we don’t get the kids from the district next to us that is being closed for mismanagement. (The district might use their K-5 building. Their JH and HS kids already attend the hs we feed into due to them not having 6 – 12 grades).

  39. Kid you not, my friend was telling me that at the school her kid goes to (private), the kids are not allowed to leave their classroom after school to meet parents in the parking lot, car loop or anywhere. All parents have to walk to the classroom to pick up their kid. Since she has a 2 year old and a 1 month old (older kid is 3rd grade), I told her that was ridiculous – especially because the little two usually fall asleep on the 20 minute drive there and she has to jostle them awake, haul the baby carrier in, just to pick up her son, who is perfectly capable of walking out the school gates. I guess NO child walks home alone at that school??? Weird…

  40. Uly, no it’s not happened over an umbrella yet. But in the cited story the concern was that the umbrella could be used as a weapon. There are quite a few cases nationally where students have been suspended over things that are declared to be contraband or weapons, such as the boy who was in trouble for using a spork from his canteen set to eat with in the lunch room. Locally, any time there is an issue with children, as a matter of course, the parents are cited with child neglect and/or endangerment and booked into jail. For example, a mother that lives near me was inside cooking dinner and her two children wandered off down the street and managed to get about a mile away. This is a rural area and there was little danger. But the mother was arrested and charged and the children placed in foster care. There are other cases locally where a child is playing in the yard and a parent has fallen asleep inside, or the child wakes up at night and manages to get out of their house where the parents are arrested as well. In the schools, there is little tolerance for nonconformance. The word of the parents is not accepted regarding sickness, only a signed doctor’s note for each day of absence is accepted. If your child has more than 5 total days of sickness without seeing the doctor each day or two for a note, you get a letter. Past that, you can be scheduled to appear before a judge. The standard result of meeting with the judge is the parents pay extensive court fees, the family is referred to DCS for monitoring, and the parents, in return for being allowed to keep their children, agree to be placed on a sort of pseudo-probation where they must undergo drug testing at their own expense, plus a small profit added on for the county.

  41. Postscript to the story:

    I asked the school – it is definitely a rule. They seemed a little vague, but thought it might even be a Dept of Education directive.

    I then enquired in an Australian online parenting forum I frequent, and there were many (didn’t count, but my impression was a majority) who agreed that umbrellas are indeed dangerous in schools, and a good raincoat should suffice.

    So, after thinking about it, I can see the point of the rule. I still don’t like it, but, like a dutiful sheep, I shall obey…!

  42. Leesa, how are parents supposed to see the marker from home? 🙂

  43. Leesa, does that mean you are meant to be driving past the school to check if the marker is out?

    And the tropical rains we get in some parts of Australia, a normal rain jacket wouldn’t do. I would be wanting my drizabone! Although, then that would be too hot *sigh*
    Decisions, decisions. Get drenched or get dehydrated in the rain?

  44. On the subject of hate, btw…

  45. Umbrellas are useful. When you wear glasses and it rains, a raincoat does nothing to protect your vision. I like using an umbrella so that I can see when the road is clear before crossing!

    An umbrella ban is a really silly idea.

  46. […] Earlier this month the topic of the day was umbrellas and how one guest blogger’s school does not allow children to bring umbrellas to school – in case someone gets an eye poked. Children and umbrellas are a bit of a risky combination, […]

  47. 4itYvc Walking in the presence of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

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