Hong Kong School Ordered to Reduce Recess Noise

Hi Readers — This story seems outrageous: A Hong Kong school lost its fight in court against a neighbor who wants to hear less noise coming from its playground.  According to the article:

The school said it respected the court’s decision but asked how the hush order could be enforced on a playground full of young children.

“Asking a child not to make noise in a playground is like asking them not to blink or a rabbit not to eat lettuce,” the school’s lawyer was quoted as saying.

Can’t imagine the judge not agreeing (perhaps he was never a child?). Let’s hope this is just one aberration,  and that, world-wide, recess continues to be boisterous  — and girl-sterous! — and maybe even evolves into that cool new kind of recess I wrote about the other day, with the shed full of inspiring junk. — L.

39 Responses

  1. I have to wonder who was there first, the school or the complaining neighbor? The article doesn’t say.

  2. What is wrong with the happy noise of playing children?
    Perhaps the crochety neighbor can invest in ear plugs for the “offensive” noise for the fraction of the day he is subject to it.

  3. Having worked across the street from a school, I can kind of sympathize with the neighbour. Of course children should be allowed to be boisterous at recess, but the kids at this school would play a game that was apparently called Who Can Scream the Loudest Over and Over Again (seriously, not even in the context of a sport, but just sitting on a hill screaming), and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching kids to have a little respect for the neighbours.

    I was in elementary school over twenty years ago, and we ran around like crazy, played kickball and King’s Court and skipping games, but the rule nonetheless was to keep the neighbouring houses in mind, and the recess attendants would occasionally remind us kids about volume control.

  4. @RS- yes, every neighbor has it’s pros and cons with noise level.

    So, if you lived across the street from a dog kennel, do you need to tell the dogs to keep it down with the barking?
    What about a stadium? Should fans be encouraged to do silent waves vs. cheering too loudly?
    Since when did children’s voices become so annoying that we need to restrict them?

  5. I’ll agree schools can be loud, but mostly it’s happy noise, which isn’t that bad in my opinion.

  6. Considering how there was a toddler in China who got run over twice without any passerby doing anything except a lady who noticed the girl, moved her, and waited to see if someone would claim her. Sad really that China has such a low tolerance for the value of human life particularly children.

    So you posting this neighbor in Hong Kong unhappy about the noise level makes me think it has more to do with Chinese culture today.

  7. the solution of course is simple: do NOT let the kids go outside, certainly not in groups of more than 2 or 3 at a time.

    So recess will be changed to hanging out in the classroom or another location inside the school building, playing videogames or watching television rather than being active little kids.
    And those who can’t behave “properly” subdued will be drugged senseless with ritalin and prozac after being duely diagnosed with ADHD.

  8. I do think there is a cultural component to this, and that we don’t get to judge that. Also we don’t know what exactly was going on. As RS, on November 2, 2011 at 02:00 said there is “normal” noise and there is noise that should be stopped. A ‘game’ where the only goal is to scream loudest would certainly fall into the second category – as it could damage the children’s vocal cords as well as annoying the neighbors!

    PS. Re; the little Chinese girl who died: We certainly hear a lot about men choosing not to help children in danger because they are scared of the court system HERE. There have been cases in China where good Samaritains have been sued and bankrupted for helping! I don’t know what I would do, but I’d have to stop and think would I help a child knowing that I put my own children’s future at risk??

  9. The comment about who was there first reminds me of something that happened a few years ago.
    There was a speedway. It was noisy but it was rural so no one cared. Then the land around the speedway was developed. It was still noisy on certain days, but people accepted that that they chose to buy next to a speedway. Time passed. new people bought the houses next to the speedway. They didn’t like the noise. The Speedway now has limited days and strictly enforced noise controls and curfews.

    When you buy a house you buy into the area. If you think the area is too noisy, don’t buy there. Grr

  10. Like the PP, it reminds me of the people who bought apartments in a new block that was close to a fun park here in Sydney (a fun park that has been there since the 1930s), who then won a court battle to have the roller coaster hours so severely restricted that the park closed due to low attendance.

    Or the big company that applied to build a retirement home right across the road from a big specialist veterinary hospital. During the discussions with council, the vet hospital made a point that they were there and that there would be noise from dogs. The developers and owners of the new property said, “No problem, that’s okay.” The minute it was finished, and the residents moved in, they went to court to close the vet hospital. And won.

  11. I’m with you, Bronte. When you live next to a particular building/ business/ etc then you have to accept the consequences of living there. Now, granted ,we don’t know if the neighbor was there first or the school, so that may be a difference, but still, I can’t see the noise of a playground being that terrible.

    I live about 5 or 6 houses from the Middle and Elementary school and maybe half a mile from the high school. As such, I do hear the band playing at the middle school, have children walking up and down the street, deal with backed up traffic on the local roads at school start/end times. It’s something that we accepted when we purchased this house– same as we had to deal with the noise of trains at the last two places.

    Yet, there have been issues here, too. The school where I work has been there since the 1920s. Only one of the houses across the street has been their that long. There has been a day care and later an adult ed program there for about the last decade ,if not longer. Yet, the guy that bought land and built a house less than 10 years ago regularly calls the police, calls the Admin offices of the school, etc to complain about children outside or teenagers on the sidewalk or other school related things. I think it’s part of the growing trend of “It’s all about me.” And judges, rather than looking at the big picture, just go along with ‘every man for himself.’ After all, there’s no one to speak up for the slighted children… (not as a group, usually, unless it’s a faux “safety” issue.)

  12. I too think there’s a difference between the ordinary sounds of children playing and children having screaming games. I have young children and am pretty tolerant of kids’ noise. I also lived across from a school for years without any complaints. But the kids down the alley who stand and try to scream as loudly as they can just for the fun of it should be told to consider the feelings of others. I tell my own kids that if they scream like that I can’t tell if they’re hurt or not, so please save the screaming for when something is really wrong.

  13. I am sort of with Jenifer. Others have said somewhat the same thing. I ABSOLUTELY think kids need the freedom to play and play boisterously, without having to walk on eggshells. However, when it’s that blood-curdling scream over & over, I think they do need to kind of squelch it.

    I admit that I’m kind of crotchety about noise trespassing on my property. Some say I have EXTREMELY ridiculous expectations, but I tend towards thinking that any external noise which I consider a nuisance has no business trespassing onto my property & that if it means the source of the noise just has to never perform the activity that makes the noise, so be it.

    I even once telephoned the local ambulance department to complaint that they blared their sirens too much for my liking. Understand: I live in the boonies, nothing much happens around here, one can easily go 2 weeks & never hear a siren. All of a sudden I was hearing them twice a day & also observing that the driver sometimes would blare the sirens but then turn on a back road (apparently near where they lived) and then they turned them off. I was sure they were faking it & using it to breeze through intersections without having to stop. Still, I also just plain found it noisy.

    Another post to follow, so this one isn’t so long.

  14. The main noise that bothers me though: dog barking. That is THE big one. Frankly, when I hear on the news about someone shooting a neighbor’s dog and the news goes on to paint about what an awful person it must’ve been to do such a thing and how there is a reward for the perpetrator, I don’t totally agree. My response: IF it was a case of a dog that barked frequently, the owner was POLITELY and RESPECTFULLY asked to control this noise but they were rude & flat-out refused, and their neighbor was made to endure the torment of endless “yap! yap! yap!” & did what they did as a desperate grasp at having peace & quiet on their own property, I consider them to have done the only thing they could to save their sanity & fix the problem.

    Yes it’s violent and brutal, and every other legal avenue should be pursued first, but seriously–that noise can easily become THAT annoying, to the point of driving a person to commit downright savage acts if need be to protect their eardrums and sanity–and it’s NOT on the person to “live with it,” I think it’s on the owner of the dog to CONTROL it by whatever means necessary.

    A person should NOT ever, EVER, have to wear earplugs on their OWN PROPERTY or be told to “deal with it.” Bullfeathers. It’s their property. Any noise that invades uninvited is a form of trespassing every bit the same as if a person actually was trespassing in the physical sense.

    Heck in Tucson AZ where I once lived, they even had a concept of light pollution. Neighbors were expected to not use their porch lights except for a few seconds when first arriving etc, they otherwise were expected to keep their exterior lights off indefinitely. This was taken so seriously, often-times you couldn’t read street signs at night in certain areas. It was considered THAT big of a deal that your light not “trespass” onto another’s property. I’m that same way with dog barking and a few other noises.

    Even so, I admit–if one were to gripe about every single last external noise & demand cave-like total 100% silence on their own place, that would be impossible & unreasonable. There will always be SOME noise. But I think if it’s noise that is excessive, easily controllable, and doing so doesn’t highly infringe on the quality of life for the source, it should be done. Dogs SHOULD be trained to bark rarely, if at all. Ambulances should only blare their sirens if there really IS an emergency, not so they can cheat their way through an intersection–NOT just because it’s cheating on the road, but also because you’re introducing extra & unnecessary noise.

    And kids outside–let them be kids, let them enjoy the outdoors in a boisterous and adventurous fashion without feeling nervous & “walking on eggshells.” HOWEVER–if you’re screaming & screaming & screaming over & over, yes–show some respect for those around you. Zip it already.

    LRH

  15. About noise: my college president called the police on the percussion section of the band. Seems 7AM practice on his lawn was… discouraged. 😉

    As far as noise, one would think the original resident would have some priority–if you move next to a race track, you accept the noise factor. Apparently common sense and law are not completely overlapping.

  16. I live next to a primary school, a middle school and a high school. I have no idea how many students go to the schools – “a lot”.
    When I come off night shift and am trying to sleep, yes they are loud. That’s what ear plugs are for.
    I have similar complaints about the garbage truck (0430 six mornings a week), about multiple sirens setting off my adrenaline – they are going to a big job, and I dont get to (just off an arterial road, with an ambulance and fire station just down the road, if they need to head North, they are going to go past my house).

    It is one of the risks of living in a city – shock horro – noise.

    Saving up for my rural retreat. Then I will just have the kookaburras, backburning and mowers (I hate the noise of mowers) to whinge about.

    Or, I can just accept that humans make noise.
    Take joy in the fact the children are playing.
    Joy in the fact I have a regular garbage service.
    Joy in the fact my colleagues are getting some interesting work, and that they are there if things go wrong.

    Yet to figure out how to take joy in lawn mowers – that’s what my geese are for 😉

  17. I have to agree with those who are saying there is normal childhood noise and just noise. I have no problem with the regular sounds of kids happily playing. I do have a problem with kids screaming for no apparent reason, or in the case of my child, just making random noises to make noise. Certainly my neighbors would rightly complain if my friends and I stood out in my yard and spent 30 minutes screaming as loud as possible just because we think it’s fun. There is no reason to accept such behavior from kids because they’re kids. You need to be tolerant of the normal noise of life around you (or move to the country with no neighbors for miles), but excessive, pointless noise shouldn’t have to be tolerated.

  18. agree with LRH on the dog issue. Drives me barking mad…
    🙂

  19. This is one of the few instances where I somewhat disagree with Lenore Skenazy–and I don’t TOTALLY disagree, by ANY means. In fact where it regards that we need to let children free-range play & not have petty things interfere with that, I certainly agree with her as always.

    The thing is I think some of the responses in this thread illustrate the problem with noise pollution–it (noise pollution) is a legitimate issue, a real source of stress for people. It is shown that noise leads to heightened stress problems and can actually contribute to health issues. Too often, though, it isn’t treated with the respect it deserves. Instead, too often people are told to “deal with it” and “that’s part of life,” and that’s just wrong.

    As I have said before, I respect the wishes of the Mr Wilsons of the world (from Dennis the Menace) who want to be LEFT ALONE. Mr Wilson may be a grouch, but that’s his space, and he ought to have whatever level of quietness and left-alone-ness he wants on his own property. What’s the point of something being yours (in this case, your property) if you can’t have it the way you want it? You might as well just lease it.

    In public in general, you somewhat have to accept it as best as you can–although I think sometimes even then it could be handled better. (I’ve often-times said I think a person should be able to walk around in the city in residential areas for a “stroll” and without having damn dogs yap at you while you do so, and if I were mayor of a city I’d take such strolls & cite every house which has dogs coming out and harassing me with their yapping. Yes, I consider it a form of harassment.)

    However, on your property you are allowed to be as nit-picky as you want, the rest of the neighborhood be damned. If something is trespassing onto your property–your space–that you didn’t consent to & it causes stress, you have the right to get rid of it, I think. That includes noise.

    Some of it is unavoidable & can’t be helped–the person who lives next to the fire department, for instance. If you live near an Air Force base, you’re going to hear planes. You live next to a motor speedway racetrack, you will hear motor noise. Some of it is inevitable.

    However, a lot of the noise is created ON PURPOSE without thought, and the problem is, with the exception of a few scarce things like loud music, such noise is treated as being something you’re supposed to learn to live with. The dog barks at every squirrel and bird it sees? “That’s just what dogs do,” you’re told. That’s just not right. Ever hear of having your dog trained to shut its piehole, and if you want a guard-dog, get a burglar alarm?

    Or, as one person mentioned, the garbage collector. They ought to be made to wait until a decent hour to come out, and turn off those damn backup beepers. (And if the law requires backup beepers, change that law.) Same goes for the landscapers–yes, it’s cooler in the middle of the day, but you’re there to serve the residents, their concerns (wanting to sleep in until 9 or so) matter, yours compared to them are totally irrelevant.

    Also, train tracks–of course you’re going to hear some train noise from the whistle blowing, you have to accept that up to an extent–but isn’t 1 or 2 toots of the whistle for each intersection enough? How come they have to blow it every 2.5 milliseconds over and over and over and over? I’m like–I heard you the first 3 million times!

    As for kids playing–yes, kids need to be able to play, and normal playground child noise–it should be allowed within reason. But again, if the kids are engaging in screaming contests, they should be told to squelch it out of respect for their neighbors.

    LRH

  20. Well to me it would be a chicken or the egg thing. Was the school there first or was the house there first? If the house was there first, then they have a point about deserving the noise level to be bearable and how the neighborhood was when they bought the house. If the school was already there or there first when they bought the house, then they need to get over it. They knew what they were getting into living near a school.

    We live very close to an elementary school. I can hear the kids sometimes. Doesn’t bother me.

  21. I guess I would add that if the house were there first then it would be good for the school to try to work with them. Maybe change recess times around if that would help or have them play at another area of the school or put up sound blocker walls or something. If the school was there first than the school really should not have to do anything but if they feel generous, they can try to work with them.

    I don’t think telling the kids not to yell and play though is a proper solution. If they are just screaming to be screaming they can stop that, but kids are naturally loud when they free play outside and I don’t think they should stifle that. Everyone knows how valuable it is to let kids get their energy out and free play and exercise. It helps them be better students and more well behaved and fit and all that good stuff.

    I would sympathize with someone who had to work third shift and lived there before the school was built etc. They should try every avenue first to see if they can block out the noise like fans, ear plugs, white noise machines etc so they can sleep. If it is just a “I don’t want to hear kids playing thing” I would have less sympathy for them because that can be blocked out by the tv or music or just ignored.

  22. This begs for a Coase theorem solution. (Coase won the 1991 Nobel in economics for his attention to just this sort of conflict.) There are many possible solutions, and I’ll bet that the homeowner and the school hammer out an equitable one. For instance, one might be that the school buys the home.

    Noise is like any other unwanted pollutant, and the homeowner has a right to have it limited. For the few who might be interested, his is a thorough article by the brilliant economist Murrary Rothbard about how to resolve pollution and other nuisance problems.

    Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution
    http://mises.org/daily/2120

  23. We used to live across the street from a church. I never understood why our neighbors complained about things like weddings, Sunday morning traffic, weekday carpool traffic (a school used the building), all the people, etc. That’s what comes with a church/school. People. Sound. Traffic.

    I, for one, sure enjoyed my living room view of the beautifully landscaped grounds. Our dog loved the fenced in fields open for fun after the kids had gone home. We all smiled at the sound of bells rung on special occasions.

    The moral of the story … Get over yourself. Life’s too short to focus on the inconveniences. If they’re too overwhelming – Move.

    As always – thanks for sharing, Lenore.

  24. I miss the sounds of the kids playing at recess at the school across the street from my house. The school closed a few years ago.

    I like churchbells. I can live with sirens. I can even live with the police helicopter that seems to hover over my neighborhood at 3 am too darn often. Trains are good, too, off in the distance.

    But, people, if you want to listen to music in your backyard, set the volume so it isn’t audible past your fence. I and the birds thank you.

  25. Just thought of a question, though: if, as my city has, there are noise bylaws governing things like lawnmowers and concerts and street festivals — even buskers and street preachers — should the kids be exempt if their noise exceeds the decibel limits?

    I throw it out there. I don’t think I have an answer, though my gut says they should.

  26. If they came to live there when the school already existed they should’ve known better. Otherwise, it’s going to be a prickly issue…

  27. I’m living in Hong Kong right now, and our kids attend one of the local private schools. On the one hand, I’m not surprised by this at all as very few kids actually play outside here. Land is so expensive that there are few open areas, and when there is, it’s so hot there’s very little grass. We live on a university campus, and the security guards are completely intolerant to letting our kids do anything remotely fun. They even yelled at my boys for playing catch with a baseball – they seemed to think they might hurt their heads. And don’t get me started on the parks. There is no playground equipment here that is suitable for any kids over the age of 5 – even though they’re designated for kids 5-12. So, people here are completely unaccustomed to kids playing.

    On the other hand, kids have a tremendous amount of freedom here. I see young kids all over the place – BY THEMSELVES (the horror!) – on the public transportation, and no one bats an eye. We let our kids run around all over the place (although we ask them not to cross streets yet – only due to the fact that the cars drive on the “wrong” side of the road and the kids aren’t used to looking the right way – they can still get pretty far from our apartment even with this restriction). So kids in Hong Kong have almost complete freedom to go anywhere, but nothing “kid-like” to do when they get there. Strange.

    Finally, if you want to read a story that celebrates what kids can learn when they’re let loose, pick up Gweilo by Martin Booth. It tells the story of how he basically roamed free in Hong Kong in the 1950s between the ages of 7-10. We’re trying to emulate at least some of that with our kids.

  28. Please do forgive me if I am becoming, or become, too “prickly” on this issue, especially if it also strays too far off being a free-range issue. Again, where it regards children within reason being able to play outside to have a real childhood & even make a little noise in the process, I am fully with Lenore, fully. Kids are going to make a certain amount of noise, it’s part of who & what they are, and it should be allowed within reason.

    But again, I’m hearing a lot of “if you don’t like it, move” responses to noise, whether it concerns this or something else, and I just don’t agree with it one bit. Why should the victim have to move? Would you ask a woman who was being raped “if you don’t like men grabbing your arm & fondling your breasts, that’s just the way it is here–if you don’t like it, move” when the response ought to be how the woman was totally a victim & the rapist totally in the wrong? Yes of course if one can move to a better neighborhood that’s a good thing to do, but that doesn’t mean one who ends up in a seedy neighborhood & is the victim of a crime should be told “well, you should’ve thought of that before you moved here, you got what you deserved.” Honestly, I see no difference in that or this.

    Don’t get carried away in rebuttal, I am NOT saying this is as bad as rape, obviously it isn’t, but to me it is sort of like “rape of the ears” to have to tolerate noise pollution & be told “if you don’t like it, move” and “get over yourself.” That’s just wrong. If noise bothers a person, it bothers a person, it’s an unwanted invader trespassing onto their property without their consent & they have EVERY RIGHT to be furious about it and demand a change.

    Now, obviously, if a person is able to hear certain noises & it doesn’t bother them, if they are somehow able to get to the point that the noise is no longer a struggle for them, and it isn’t in the matter like that “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer was going “serenity now” only to explode later in dramatic fashion (thus, the particular nuisances WERE still bothering him, he was just refusing to acknowledge it), then that’s a good thing. And yes, a certain minimum level of noise will still occur, you can’t expect it to sound like a cave in the middle of the day. Some people truly are nit-picky beyond the point of being halfway reasonable.

    But to demand a person “get over it” and “if you don’t like it, move” where it regards avoidable and unnecessarily-created forms of noise (dogs barking, too many sirens, loud music, firecrackers/guns, loud machinery)–frankly, anyone that treats a neighbor that way is a selfish jerk and, frankly, an asshat.

    In recent weeks, as the weather has cooled & many summer activities I like to do are now out of season, I’ve taken to doing things like setting off firecrackers. It’s crazy, I know, but I enjoy doing that. We live in the woods with few neighbors, it’s totally legal so long as I don’t set the woods on fire. However, I often-times retreat way back into the wilderness to do so, because I got wind that one of the persons in our vicinity is nervous about popping sounds–I’m not sure if it’s because they were in a war & developed battle fatigue or whatever, but they have that as a struggle.

    Now I could be an asshat about it & insist “hey, what can I tell you, guns make noise, get over it” and legally they couldn’t do a thing-but instead I deliberately trek a good distance away to make it far less noisy. In fact, if I can tell that they’re home, I will avoid doing it all doing those periods & do it more when they’re NOT home, they’re gone a lot of the time anyway. I don’t even have to, but I do so because I think it’s the decent thing to do, if they have battle fatigue they have the right, I think, not to be subjected to “bang! bang! bang!” on their own property.

    Also, people around here can burn trash. I do it myself sometimes. However, I occasionally develop bronchitis or asthma problems from allergic reactions to whatever. When that’s not going on, I could be around the smoke all day & it doesn’t phase me–but if it’s going on, one whiff of it & I go into a coughing frenzy. I have heard of communities banning the burning of trash based on the idea of “smoke trespass” onto other people’s property and causing problems for people with asthma etc. People around here, though, if I complained about that, would probably tell me “tough, don’t like it–move.”

    Is that the kind of neighbors we want to be?

    The attitude I mentioned with regards to my not popping firecrackers in my yard due to the one person with a nervousness about popping sounds, even though I could legally do it all I wanted to–THAT is the attitude people ought to have, not “tough, get over it.” Also: not to pick on anyone by name, but FrancesfromCanada hit on another of my pet peeves–any noise being okay other than loud music. Why should loud music get picked on, but someone can have a barnyard animal or dog or loud farm machinery at 6 a.m. way too early in the morning–and all of that is just fine & dandy? I see no difference. I’ve heard “because animals can’t help but make noise, music noise can be helped.” Well there’s always being told you can’t have the animal at all if the noise can’t be stopped. Do they “need” that barnyard animal anymore than someone “needs” to play music loudly?

    Believe me, when people truly aren’t bothered by such things & everyone gets along okay, that’s what is best overall. I am SO glad other animal sounds like goats or cows don’t bother me. When that one person with the aversion to popping sounds isn’t home & I can pop off firecrackers all I want without the thought in my head being there of how it must bother them, I LOVE having that freedom.

    HOWEVER, if someone IS bothered, I think one is truly an asshat to ignore them and give the “tough, if you don’t like it, move” response.

    LRH

  29. I’m with those who say, “If it’s normal school noise from normal kids playing normally, that’s what you get for living near a school, but even kids should have to respect their neighbors and act like civilized people by not making pointless, excessive noise.”

    The church/weddings example is a good parallel — people who move in near a church and then complain about church bells and cars honking for two minutes on Saturday afternoons need to grow up, but if the church starts having heavy-metal themed weddings and midnight fireworks receptions on the lawn every weekend of the summer, it’s more than reasonable to object. That is not actually a normal expectation of what you’d have to put up with by living near a church. And if the school is very close to residences and the kids are regularly and in large numbers screaming for screaming’s sake, it’s reasonable for the school to be expected to teach the kids something about being good neighbors.

  30. In response to LRH and the train whistle:

    Once heard a comedian say he was in a town and crossing the train tracks. He noticed a sign that said, “Train will NOT blow whistle when approaching intersection.” He asked his companion what that was all about and the man said, “Well, the people who live around here got upset about the train blowing it’s whistle when they were trying to sleep, so they petitioned and got it stopped.”

    The comedian thought it over and said, “Huh. You don’t think the sound of a train hitting a Buick at 90 miles an hour will wake them up, do you?”

  31. pentamom nailed it. You can’t buy a house near, say, a community swimming pool or (say) a playground & think it’s going to be absolutely whisper quiet. At the same time, that doesn’t mean it should be SO noisy either. In like manner, I’ve seen car washes located next to a large group of houses & there would be signs telling patrons not to blast loud “boom bass” music because of the people who live nearby. Naturally, some will say “they chose to live next to a car wash, what do they expect,” but I think the premise behind the signs is exactly correct.

    I like the joke relayed by kiesha. That is funny. Again, though, I understand a train needing to blow a whistle so it doesn’t crash into a car. My thing is, again, blow it once or MAYBE twice for each intersection. In my experience, they blow it so often I’m surprised they haven’t made the horn “always on” like headlights on a motorcycle. It really is ridiculous how over-the-top they get with blowing it seemingly every 2.5 milliseconds. Again, if you live near train tracks, expect to hear an occasional whistle, but you’re right to complain if they blow it every 2.5 milliseconds.

    LRH

  32. When I moved to Bozeman, MT, there was a flier put out by someone (perhaps Realtors, but not sure) that talked about how to live in and near that mostly rural area. Among the things listed was this jem:

    “If you move next to a dairy farm, expect it to smell. Do not think that you can petition the county to get the farm shut down. The county will just laugh at you.”

    The reason this was listed was because people, moving from out of state (mostly CA) wanted things to be just perfect, and the day they happened to visit the place they bought, the wind was blowing the other way, or was not a day when the honey wagon was being used.

    Now, I am not sure how property is listed in Japan, or if the school was there first or not, but it seems like the same situation.

  33. About the train whistle thing:

    I live in a town with 4 commuter rail stations. We hear a lot of train horns (which makes me happy, as it means that the %^&% trains are actually running on time, so I can get to work). Not long ago a woman coming out of a restaurant, busy texting actually WALKED INTO THE SIDE OF A MOVING TRAIN. The train was ringing its bell, and wasn’t exactly small, but she was so oblivious that she just walked smack into a moving train.

    Now, there are some places where there are many pedestrians at street crossings. I have seen, from my car, people about to walk around the barrier and dash across the track (because the train is still pretty far away, in their mind) be brought up short by a blast of the train horn. I have also seen people waiting on the platform, standing too close to the edge with headphones on, jump back out of the way when they heard the train horn. The horns are often a necessary warning – trains themselves make less noise than you would think.

    Now I could take a Darwinian perspective and say, if you are too dumb to heed warning signs and gates then you deserve to get hit by a train. But if someone gets hit, they need to close down the line, get the police out to investigate, and nothing moves until they’re done. This screws everyone’s commute. So yeah, I’d rather hear train whistles as often as they are needed if the alternative is not getting to work at all.

  34. ***Sigh***. At my sons’ elementary school, there was a dog who lived in the house behind the portable classrooms that barked incessantly, throughout the school day. The school had complained to the property managers numerous times, and they said there was nothing they could do about it, and that if the school didn’t like it, they should have put their portables somewhere else. Even though the classrooms were there long before the dog. Last year, the children were no longer able to play on the side of the schoolyard that was adjacent to the houses during recess, because the residents had complained to the school about the noise. Sad.

  35. I’m with RS here – years ago a friend of mine who was a night-shift nurse lived in the upstairs of an old house and a day-care center opend right next door. When the kids came out to play she could hear the teacher encouraging kids to scream as loud as possible to let off their pent-up energies. She tried to reason with the school but they blew her off. Rather than call the cops, she simply moved her block-party grade stereo speakers onto her balcony and the next morning when the teacher yelled “OK, kids, it’s SCREAM TIME!” she put on some very rude late-70’s punk rock (if I’m not mistaken it was the Ramones’ “Beat on the brat, beat on the brat, beat on the brat with a baseball bat!”) and cranked the volume up to 11. The school was at her door within moments and a neighborly compromise that eliminated sleep-disturbing screaming and kid-scaring music was quickly achieved.

  36. Cheryl, Hong Kong is not in Japan.

  37. @LRH: noise pollution is indeed a serious problem, but moving into a known noisy area and complaining afterwards (often years after) about that noise and demand it disappears is idiotic, and that’s what’s going on here.

    Often the people complaining moved into the area originally because they wanted to be close to the source of the noise, not because of the noise but because of the reason it’s noisy there.
    In this case, they want to be close to a school for their kids. But the kids have moved out, so now the school is a nuisance rather than a benefit so it has to go.
    It happens a lot around here where there’s an airport in the area. People move in because of the easy travel (excellent connections, not just airlines but trains, busses, taxis, highways) and the very high number of jobs in the area.
    Then they retire, or switch jobs to one not directly related to the airport, and they start complaining and demanding the airport be closed or relocated.
    There’ve even been people admitting moving into such areas for no other reason than to file lawsuits against industries from some perverted “green” agenda, trying to get airports and factories shut down “for the environment”.

    The ONLY people who should ever have a right to complain about noise in an area are people who lived there before the source of that noise was created.
    In this case, people who lived in that area before the school was built. Where I live, people who lived here before the airport was built in 1920 or so (or for the wider area, before it was expanded to impact that area in the 1960s).

    Anyone else who complains is a hypocrit.

  38. I have next-door neighbors who have three little boys between the ages of two and seven, plus their cousins lives across the street, also around the same age. They are LOUD kids. If you just sit in my house and listen to them sometimes, it sounds like lord of the flies is happening outside. But I don’t really mind, I love childhood noises. It reminds me of being a kid and it reminds me that me and DD have been inside all day and could probably use some fresh air 🙂 What’s wrong with noise as long as it’s in the middle of the day?

  39. I worked as a teacher in an elementary school with the rule, “No running at recess.” Wouldn’t want kids to bump into each other, fall down, or “get too excited.” I never could decide whether to laugh or cry when I heard the harried folks at recess duty screaming, “THERE’S NO RUNNING AT RECESS!” Of course, this proscription made the afternoon in class unbearable.

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