How Safe is Your School?

Update: I managed to miss that the original source of this story was and, as was pointed out, give credit where it is due (especially a blog!). My apologies.

The Stranger Slog reports that on Jan. 13th after school was over that day, a child playing tag ran out into the street at Green Lake Elementary (where they don't have a totally fenced playground) and the child was hit by a car. Luckily the student was unhurt. The child was there without adult supervision. From the article:

The blog said that Bowers admitted that the unfenced playground is "a huge safety concern," promising that fencing will go in "ASAP." "This is my biggest fear," Bowers told parents of the accident. The district said they had approved a request for the fence in December but it got held up for "parts."

There was also mention that the lack of fencing could have been a decision that GL Elementary had been allowed to make. No one seems to know.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; the district should have safety standards that NO school can overrule. The district could find itself in a lot of trouble someday if they had to try to explain how it is that schools can decide what safety equipment to have or not have.


anonymous said…
I agree that all elementary schools should have a fence. Can't believe we have a school that doesn't have a fence??

But is the school really responsible for children after school hours, who are there on their own without adult supervision?

At my kids elementary school children were NOT allowed on school property after the bell rang unless they were being supervised by an adult or in an after school program - for this very reason.
anonymous said…
And speaking of safety....received this letter from the Eckstein principal today:

There has been concern this year from staff, students and parents that movement in the halls and stairwells can sometimes be unsafe due to students bumping into one another. In addition, too many students are getting to class late due to the struggle to get through the hallways. This has been an ongoing concern, and we've been searching for a solution short of saying no more than 900 kids can come to Eckstein. (I'm just kidding)

What we're asking kids to do is to walk like they would drive -- they need to stay to the right side of the hallways and stairs. Students stopping at their lockers between each class also adds to the flow problems and decreases the amount of space students have to get from one class to another. If students plan accordingly, they can stop at their lockers in the morning to get the supplies for their first few classes. They then have the opportunity to visit their lockers again both before and after lunch to get their lunch and the items they need for their afternoon classes.

Another of Seattle's middle schools has put this plan into action and they've found that there are fewer tardies, virtually no incidents in the hallways, and the level of bullying has decreased.

We have 130 more students in the building this year than we did last year, and I'm betting more will be here next year. We are confident that this plan will provide more routine to the day and support a positive learning community where all individuals are safe and can get to classes on time.
Chris said…
The playground at Green Lake is fenced except for a 15' wide opening. And there are rules about no students before a certain time. This happened after school, when it is hard to control who is without supervision. Are they going to take roll after school too? Sure, they'll close up that opening, but I bet there will still be a gate, and still be a way for a kid to go after the ball without looking for cars. This could have just as easily happened at recess, when there is supervision, anyway. Kids are fast. And this one at least was very lucky.
Anonymous said…
"At my kids elementary school children were NOT allowed on school property after the bell rang unless they were being supervised by an adult or in an after school program - for this very reason."

This is the case at my kids' school, too, and it actually bugs me a little. Here we are working towards neighborhood schools, and it seems to me one benefit of that ought to be that older elementary kids who live nearby can walk themselves to and from school -- even play briefly on the playground unsupervised.
anonymous said…
I agree Lisa. When my kids were 9 and 10 years old I felt they were old enough to play on the school playground for an hour or so after school with a group of friends. I thought it was a good way to give them a bit of independence, for short periods of time, in a fairly safe environment (there were always moms with tots hanging around, and the after school program kids too).

But the school never allowed it, and though it bugged me, I do understand it.

Oddly, the school told us that we were welcome to let our kids go to the playground after 4P when the office closed.
I think the issue is that there's kind of a twilight zone between when school ends and the office closes. There's adults around right after school ends (parents, staff getting kids on the buses, etc.) but then staff goes home/back in the school, parents leave and there's always a couple of kids. The assumption is that the adults at the school will watch out for them but that just isn't the case.

I think that's why after 4 p.m. they don't care because all the staff is usually gone by then (in elementary).
Tracy @ WSB said…
Hi! Credit where credit is due, SLOG merely rewrote (with an added phone call or two, I recall from reading their blurb) the work of, which is not mentioned here. I know it's hard to figure out the original source in this day and age of so many sources just rewriting everybody else, but the SLOG piece did credit MGL a few times.
seattle citizen said…
A "community" school that was truly of the community could be open 6am-11pm, adults in and out, volunteer supervisors, activity everywhere...These buildings should be public and open until the wee hours. Think of the resources in them: computers, libraries, art rooms and supplies...

That said, children run into streets (I'm so glad this child was not hurt) and the issue of litigation will, it seems, forever taint whatever system a public (or private) entity sets up: Fence? climbable, fallable, and school will be sued (maybe). All the indemnities in the world won't stop someone from suing if they are so inclined. THAT is the shame of it, that we can't figure out a system where parties can insulate themselves from frivolous lawsuits ("But your honor, the school was closed! It was three in the morning! No, we didn't electrify the fence, we thought that was too much...")
basically said…
Two students were hit on Wallingford ave in November or December on a dark dreary morning, crossing the street on their way to Hamilton. They were in a crosswalk. I don't know the details, other than that. Not the school's fault, per se, but maybe there needs to be a crossing guard? I know that Lowell had to put up a fence and lock their playground after hours, due to misuse by the public. Needles, condoms and human feces on a playground is another safety concern....of the gross kind..
anonymous said…
It would be reasonable to me that during school hours, when your children are being supervised by school staff it is 100% their responsibility to closely supervise children (especially young children 5, 6, 7,8, 9 year olds), and do whatever it takes to keep them safe.

After the last bell rings though, it becomes the parents responsibility to supervise their children. You want to leave your kid on the playground unsupervised, fine, that's your choice, but if an accident happens, it's on you, not the school.

Kids getting hit on Wallingford? The parents felt their kids were mature enough to walk to school on their own, and made the decision to allow it, so I don't see how the school could have any responsibility?? I've never seen or heard of crossing guards for middle school, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for added safety. Of course crossing guards cost (don't they?), and the district has no money.
SolvayGirl said…
The playground at Graham Hill, though fully fenced, is considered a public park on the weekends and after-school (that's how we managed to get over $200,000 in grant money to do a major renovation). The playground provides the Orthodox Jewish community a place for their children to play on Saturdays as it sits within <block of two synagogues. It is also used by others in the community on a regular basis for basketball, bike riding, etc. Not sure about liability in this case.

We did have a serious issue with things like condoms, etc. when there was a small shed on the property that we dubbed the "Love Shack." We quickly replaced it with a locking one—problem solved.
Eric B said…
I'm not a lawyer by any means, but my understanding is that it is difficult to successfully sue a school over injuries on the playground, even during the school day.

I see the issue of fencing as more a case of limiting access in or out during the school day. Kids can't get out (easily) and drug dealers can't get in. If there are openings in the fence, at least they're limited so the playground supervisors can keep an eye on them.

At Loyal Heights, we have a fence with several gates that are locked during the school day. I believe there are a couple of openings near the school that the playground teachers watch. We do have to trim back the vines growing on the fence so the staff can see if someone is hanging around outside.
Amy Duncan said…
FYI, the playground has now been fenced -

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