To Keep Kids “Injury-Free” School Substitutes Wii for Recess

Hi Folks! This story comes to us by way of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which loves when kids make up their own games rather than them simply playing something pre-programmed. At this particular school, the superintendent is quoted as saying a desire to keep kids “out of trouble” and “injury-free” prompted the decision to give kids Wii time as opposed to FREE time for recess, once or twice a week. As I watched the video, I despaired about three  things.

1 – The fact that Wii is seen as the same thing as making up a game, even though there is no imagination or organization required.

2 – The fact that it is now DE RIGUEUR that we not show any children’s faces in a video. As if somehow that is damaging to them or us or someone somehow somewhere.

3 – The fact that the hopscotch game at this school is a pre-fab mat, placed on the ground.

I’m sure I am a little too sensitive to all these issues, but come on: Let kids run around! Let them use chalk. Let them make up their own games. Let them get away from the screen. And PLEASE quit worrying that every non-scripted moment outside = an injury waiting to spring. – L.

Kids Severely Sunburned at School Because They Didn’t Have “Prescription” for Sunscreen

Readers — As much as anything, this blog is dedicated to the idea that we MUST use our brains and compassion and not blindly follow orders that exist only to avoid liability or blame. So take a look at what happened to these girls at their school’s field day. (Warning: The pictures are painful!)

The girls were kept out in the sun and severely burned, to the point where the adults at the school were noticing and commenting. Later, the principal explained her…what’s it called in a war when you don’t stand up and fight for justice? …her that. Her blithe justification for why she didn’t do the right thing:

 Her response centered around the the school inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) for liability reasons. And while I can sort of wrap my brain around this in theory, the practice of a blanket policy which clearly allows for students to be put in harm’s way is deeply flawed. Not only does a parent have to take an unrealistic (an un-intuitive) step by visiting a doctor for a “prescription” for an over-the-counter product, children are not allowed to carry it on their person and apply as needed.

TALK ABOUT INSANE!

Folks, I am thinking of writing a book — a mini-one — on this whole issue. The issue of our safety fears becoming so ornate and far-fetched (“What if a child uses sunscreen inappropriately?”) that we not only lose all common sense, we lose our ability to think or even feel. We become stunted.

The principal didn’t frame it this way, but it was her decision to LET those girls burn. Sure, she was “just following orders” — the insurance company’s, perhaps, or the school district’s. But we’ve seen where just following orders can lead. – L.

Oh…does that thing burn?

Ugh! Now 5th Graders “Can” Go Play — Once a Month, If Chaperoned

Hi Readers! In a post earlier this week we were discussing a great tradition: Fifth graders in Davidson, N.C., who leave school on Friday afternoons and proceed to the town green for an an afternoon of just being kids. This was abruptly declared “unsafe” and ended. Here’s why, according to Davidsonnews.net:

Ms. Nivens [the interim principal] said she thinks fifth graders are too young to be allowed outside home or school without an adult. “Even though it is not a school-sponsored activity, the school still is perceived as encouraging children to be unaccompanied … and to be unsupervised,” she said.

She also worries – though she admits it is “far out there” – that unsupervised children could get into other trouble when they’re alone, such as arranging meetings with strangers they may have met on the Internet. “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.”

So now, if a person can dream up a dreadful scenario, it justifies acting as if it’s about to happen? What if I dreamed up the idea that the kids, instead of going to the green, were instead picked up by their parents only to get into a multi-car crash? Sure that’s a little “out there” but it’s not completely unheard of, right? Would that justify the kids NOT getting picked up? After all, I can imagine it.

Anyway, NOW, according to this thoroughly researched follow-up piece, the Friday tradition may be revived — with a nice thick layer of bureaucratic overkill:

A new letter [from school] this week offers to allow the walks once a month – on the fourth Friday – but only if parents sign up with the school as volunteer chaperones. The school said Thursday that kids would not be allowed to walk to the Green this week, since it’s not the fourth Friday.

If they want to go on a Friday that is NOT the fourth in the month (like today), they must be picked up and driven there, or take the bus home FIRST and THEN be driven there.

So what was once a simple throng of kids being kids becomes a tangle of permission slips, regulations and minivans.Huck Finn’s got nothing on these kids!

And, as you’ll read in the story, the shopkeepers were not dismayed by unruly students. For the most part, they were delighted with the kids’ business and already miss it. What’s more, sometimes parents would meet their children downtown later, to shop or go out to dinner. WHAT’S GOOD FOR KIDS IS GOOD FOR COMMUNITY.

And as Davidson is learning: the opposite is true, too. — L.

Children outside, on their own? THIS MUST STOP!

Help Needed! Zero Tolerance Gets Third Grader & His Cool Knife Expelled

Hi Readers! Here we go again – officials overreacting as if this makes them smart and proactive (rather than…overreacting). L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: My daughter’s third grade friend brought his pocket knife to school on accident.  It was just in his pants’ pocket from the weekend.  An hour after school was dismissed, he and his friends were still playing on school grounds and he showed his knife to them.
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One of them was a girl and because the blade was pointing her direction, she decided he was “brandishing it” and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again, he could shoot him.  (That’s right — preserve and protect — bully the eight-year-old.)
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He’s being expelled.  I know you post stories like these, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions of where my friend could go for support.  She’s trying to find a lawyer and figure out what her options are.
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I’d like to take this to the media since it’s been pretty effective in getting other districts to relent on their Zero Tolerance policies.  Anyway, do you have any suggestions of where to start? [LENORE: Yes! Here!]
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The incident was at Cumberland Elementary School in Sunnyvale, CA.  The Sunnyvale School District (between San Jose and San Francisco) is in charge of punishment.  To his credit, our school principal tried to just have him suspended, but once the district got wind of it, under California’s Zero Tolerance policy, they are required to issue a mandatory recommendation of expulsion and contact law enforcement — enter the threatening policeman.
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The boy is terrified.  He’s never been a troublemaker. He has a brother in kindergarten who is baffled.  – A California Mom.
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Lenore here: The writer has set up an email account for any lawyers or press to contact her about the incident:  bringbackdominick@gmail.com

This is NOT the knife the boy showed his friends.

“Pervy Principal Means I’ll Never Go Free-Range”

Dear Readers:  As the new year begins, I’m looking back on things I meant to comment on and here’s a piece from November that gets my goat. It’s an essay by a mom who declares she would like to be more of a Free-Range parent, but she simply cannot. How come? Because she recently heard the story of an elementary school principal in some city not her own, who secretly videotaped boys using the bathroom.

Now, this sounds like a disturbed and disturbing guy. Yecch. But the mom strikes me as disturbed as well. She seems to be saying that since sometimes some people in the world are bad to children, she simply MUST assume the worst first. And hence she will never be “Free-Range.” As if…Free-Range parents posit there are no bad people in the world?

That is not our position at all. In fact, our position is that since there ARE rotten people and situations — always were and always will be — the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to be street-wise, confident and self-reliant.

The other thing the writer seems to believe is that one single incident is enough to indict the entire human race. That’s a problem I encounter all the time:  The belief that ANY travesty, ANYWHERE in the world means that all bets are off EVERYWHERE, for EVERMORE, for THEIR kids. It is overreacting in the extreme and somewhat self-absorbed, too because it boils down to: I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

Finally, while I think the principal sounds like an absolute creep, the essayist’s description of his crime seems to be that he videotaped the boys, period.  This is an invasion of privacy and certainly revolting. But let’s not conflate it with molesting or rape.

Yes, let us teach our children to recognize, resist and report abuse. But no, let’s not look at every adult as a probable pervert, and every moment as quite possibly our children’s last. Free-Range parents don’t clip terrible stories from the newspaper as proof that our kids need our constant supervision.  We figure that if those terrible stories make the paper, they must be  rare enough to be noteworthy. In other words, we try to keep things in perspective. That is indeed a Free-Range trait. — Lenore

Of Porn, Principals and Yearbooks

Hi Readers! Allow me to direct you to my piece on ParentDish today (gotta spread the word beyond these pixels!): “Yearbook Blacks Out Kids’ Eyes for Fear of Porn Potential.”

And that’s really what it’s about: A principal in England ordered the students’ photos disfigured in the yearbook so that no one could cut and paste their innocent little heads onto child porn and post them on the Internet.

Talk about a pervert. Her! What kind of creep even THINKS like that?

And, in a related finding so new and surprising that I don’t even have an opinion about yet, this study came out today saying that in countries that decriminalize child porn, child abuse goes down!

We are living in a strange world. But you knew that. Off to disfigure my darlings’  photos (cause nothing says loving like Magic Markering black bars over their eyes) — Lenore

Outrage of the Afternoon: School Bans Toy Soldiers

Hi Folks! I’m a pacifist at heart and I have no desire to see guns in the school. But I also have no desire to see a boy told he cannot wear the hat he decorated with toy soldiers because the soldiers are carrying — guess what? Toy guns.

Ooh! How terrifying! You can find me under the desk!

As this A.P. article by Michelle Smith explains, the second grader made the hat for some kind of hat day, and he was inspired by having met a soldier last year. He wanted to honor the guy and our troops. That’s an impulse you really want to squash, right? Respect? Gratitude? Feh!

Apparently,  the  principal said he would not object to the boy’s patriotic hat if the little plastic soldiers simply were not carrying weapons. (Though imagine the brouhaha if the boy attempted to sever the weapons from the soldiers’ hands.It might involve a knife! And then blood! And then, probably, death!)

So off with his head! Er…hat. And chalk up another brilliant decision made in the name of  Zero Tolerance. Remember: when tiny plastic weapons are outlawed, only tiny plastic outlaws will have tiny plastic weapons. — Lenore

And you should see his Agent Orange lunchbox!