CANDY-ASS ALERT! In the pursuit of safety, teeter-totters and swings are disappearing

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    CANDY-ASS ALERT!!

    In the pursuit of safety, teeter-totters and swings are disappearing from playgrounds

    By Chris Kahn
    Education Writer
    Posted July 18 2005


    Andrea Levin is grateful that Broward County schools care about her daughter's safety. But this year when they posted a sign that demanded "no running" on the playground, it seemed like overkill.

    "I realize we want to keep kids from cracking their heads open," said Levin, whose daughter is a Gator Run Elementary fifth grader in Weston. "But there has to be a place where they can get out and run."

    Broward's "Rules of the Playground" signs, bought from an equipment catalogue and displayed at all 137 elementary schools in the district, are just one of several steps taken to cut down on injuries and the lawsuits they inspire.

    "It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

    How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

    "Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."

    Teeter-totters?

    "Nope. That's moving too."

    Sandboxes?

    "Well, I have to be careful about animals" turning them into litter boxes.

    Cement crawl tubes?

    "Vagrants. The longer they are, the higher possibility that a vagrant could stay in them. We have shorter ones now that are made out of plastic or fiberglass."

    Broward playgrounds aren't the only ones to avoid equipment that most adults remember. Swings, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters and other old standards are vanishing from schools and parks around the country, according to the National Program for Playground Safety.

    "Kids aren't using them the way they're supposed to," said the agency's director, Donna Thompson, who led a national effort to get rid of animal swings two years ago. "I'm pleased that a lot of these are disappearing."

    In Miami-Dade County, public schools don't use a lot of traditional equipment, including swings and sandboxes. In Palm Beach County, some schools have swings, but they're no longer included on newer campuses because there's not enough space.

    In their place, a lot of playgrounds now are inhabited with clusters of bright, multi-use contraptions with names like "Ed Center" and "Platform Climber Composite Structure." They're lower to the ground than their predecessors, coated with plastic and engineered for safety.

    "We could do a lot more if we didn't have to watch our back every single second," said Graziose, who has led a playground safety committee for 17 years. "We sometimes get a letter from the attorney before we even get an accident report from the school."

    Since 1999, Broward County schools paid out about $561,000 to settle 189 claims for playground accidents, about 5 percent of the amount the district spent on all injury claims in that time. To keep those numbers low, Graziose said, he needs to keep thinking of ways to make playgrounds safe.

    Broward County School Board member Robin Bartleman understands the pressure Graziose is under, even though the playground at Everglades Elementary in Weston makes her 6-year-old daughter's face droop into a formidable pout.

    "To say `no running' on the playground seems crazy," said Bartleman, who agreed to be interviewed on a recent outing at Everglades. "But your feelings change when you're in a closed-door meeting with lawyers."

    Read Page 2 at:
    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/lo...7619952.story?page=2&coll=sfla-home-headlines
     

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