The Student Safety Risk Presented By Playground Equipment

Written exclusively for My Community Workplace for Education

The family of a first grader who fractured her elbow when she fell from the school's monkey bars is suing her South Carolina school district for negligence.

In 2015, the student, who was seven years old at the time, fell from the monkey bars. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, playground supervisors did not help the student, who lay on the ground unable to get up from the pain, until another child notified a school staff member. An emergency room x-ray showed the girl fractured her elbow.

The family further alleges that "the school's teachers, assistant teachers, school patrol and faculty" were "negligent, willful, wanton, careless and grossly negligent" in failing to meet state standards for safe monkey bars and flooring; in failing to provide a sufficient number of staff to supervise children on the playground, especially the student who fell, who has attention deficit disorder; in failing to properly train school employees on how to supervise children on the playground; and in failing to respond in a timely manner to the student's fall. Katie Powell "Family sues school district over playground incident" (Jun. 05, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 200,000 children under the age of 15 go to the emergency room for playground-related injuries every year in the U.S. Children (ages five to nine) account for more playground-related emergency room visits than any other age group, and most of those injuries occur at schools.

School administrators must make certain that school playground equipment meets safety standards and that employees are properly trained on how to supervise children at recess.

School administrators should take the following steps to reduce the risk of playground injuries:

  • Provide an adequate number of teachers and staff to supervise children during recess. Require some employees to stay near the playground equipment at all times. Students with special needs require special supervision.
  • Elementary schools should only have equipment that is known to be safe for children under the age of nine.
  • Provide a soft, thick surface that meets the highest safety guidelines for playground flooring under all equipment that children could fall from, including monkey bars, slides, and swings.
  • Teachers should teach children the safe way to use all playground equipment at the beginning of the school year. Document that children know how to safely play on all equipment.
  • Train school employees to immediately stop a child who is playing on any equipment in an unsafe manner. Disciplinary action may include not allowing that child to play on that piece of playground equipment for a certain amount of time, or until the child can play on it safely.
  • Routinely check that all playground equipment is undamaged and free of foreign objects or obstacles. Monitor recalls on your playground equipment. Rope off broken equipment immediately, and remove it as soon as possible.
  • Have playground supervisors inspect the area surrounding playground equipment each day before children go to recess to make sure it is free of standing water and debris that could cause slips and falls, as well as dangerous materials like sharp objects.
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