A New Hampshire school district bans dodgeball . A Georgia school sends a kindergartener off in handcuffs . A Florida high school is shut down when a student brings in a mercury thermometer . Across the country, schools and school districts are overreacting to riskoften to the detriment of childrens education.
We entrust our children to teachers and principals with the expectation that they will be both educated and protected from harm. When, inevitably, incidents happenespecially when those incidents are tragic and well-publicizedcommunities often press for stricter rules and procedures. School administrations have reacted to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School with extreme protectiveness; one school suspended a six-year-old for pointing his finger like a gun and saying pow, while another suspended two boys for playing cops and robbers .
In addition to protecting children from harm, schools also look to protect themselves from lawsuits, which a study by Public Agenda labeled a perpetual fear that influence teacher and principal decision-making. To shield themselves from legal exposure, schools have attempted to eliminate every conceivable riskno tire swings, no dodgeball, no monkey bars. Field trips require complex liability waivers. Teachers cant be left alone with students. Every activity requires paperworkdocumentation, permissions, waivers.
Administrators authority has been diminished by an increased reliance on police to handle disciplinary matters as well as by restrictive policies , often imposed by state legislatures, that create an illusion of safety but prevent schools from making sensible disciplinary decisions. . . .
Our schools should be safe, but are the steps we take in response to threats at the extremeseveryday playground accidents on one end, school shootings at the otherdoing more harm than good?
more (with responses from Lenore Skenazy, Walter Olson and several more)