School Bans Swings for Being Unsafe & I've Officially Seen It All

school bans playground swings

Swings: the scourge of the skies. From the time my children were babies and I’d have to rescue them as they’d toddle unknowingly in front of someone’s fast-approaching feet to today when they’re compelled to take great flying leaps from the highest arc of the swing’s path, I’ve prayed for someone — anyone — to recognize playground swings as the menace they truly are, and ban them once and for all from every children’s play area in this great country of ours.

I’m kidding, of course. Swings are awesome, and if they’re a little dicey at times, well, that to me seems like a necessary rite of passage: you learn to respect the swing or you get kicked in the head. But one school district in Richland, Washington, has removed swings from every elementary school in town as part of their “modernization” efforts — and I suppose it’s only a matter of time until they start disappearing everywhere else, too.

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The Richland school district says one of the reasons they’re getting rid of the swings is that they’re under pressure from insurance companies. According to a district spokesperson,

As schools get modernized or renovated or as we're doing work on the playground equipment, we'll take out the swings, it's just really a safety issue, swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground.

Well, according to the CDC’s research back in 1999, that’s not completely true. That year, an estimated 205,850 playground equipment-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, with half (53 percent) of the injuries involving public equipment occurred on “climbers.” (Also, 60 percent of those injuries occurred on overhead horizontal ladders, which I assume are what we think of as monkey bars.) About two-thirds (67 percent) of the injuries were related to the swings.

One Richland parent is in favor of removing the swings, because she believes it will be safer for her daughter:

When she starts elementary school, those swings can get crazy! I actually witnessed an accident with my own eyes one time. By the time you could do something about it (the child) was knocked out.

Oh boy. Look, we all know that a kid can get hurt by a swing, usually from walking in front of someone else’s swinging feet. That’s why our job as parents is to hover awkwardly near the swings when they’re too young to know better, so we can herd them away from the danger zone. When they’re old enough to swing, we stand there and push them, making sure they don’t topple out. And when they’re big enough to pump their own legs and do that awful thing where they jump out of the swing while it’s moving, then they’re typically old enough not to get booted unconscious.

Accidents happen, of course. Accidents happen everywhere, and you can’t just take away every single risk because 1) that’s crazy, and 2) children turn EVERYTHING into a risk. My youngest son broke his foot jumping down exactly two shallow carpeted steps into our sunken living room, for crying out loud. I couldn’t have predicted that if I’d hunkered over a particularly paranoid Kid-Injury Magic Eight Ball for a week straight.

For me, it seems like the risk/reward balance comes out in favor of the swings. Sure, you can get hurt on one, but it’s far more likely that you’re going to be perfectly fine as you enjoy that iconic childhood sensation of whooshing back and forth through the air. That’s the feeling of pure freedom for a kid — do we really want to take it away on the small chance something bad could happen?

What do you think about banning swings from schools and possibly city playgrounds? Are you in favor or opposed?


Image via johnnyjet/Flickr

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