Swing is the thing at school playgrounds

I see where some schools are getting rid of swings at their playgrounds.

Too dangerous. Too much liability. More efficient to put up some plastic stuff the kids can climb on.

As I recall from my playground career, the most dangerous thing about swings was Jimmy Gilbert.

Some sweet little girl would be serenely rocking back and forth on the swingset, when Jimmy would get that smirk on his lips. He'd run up behind her, push the swing as hard as he could, run all the way underneath it, and scare the poor girl toothless.

"Yeeeeeeehhhhh! Jimmmmmmy!" I can still hear the screams.

When they got their braces back on straight, of course, the little girls loved Jimmy. If Jimmy didn't pay any attention to them, that's when they began to worry.

Today, I guess, it doesn't work that way.

"Yeeeeeeehhhhh!" I can hear the screams. "Lawwwwwsssssuit!"

They wouldn't be suing Jimmy. He had two pieces of Bazooka bubblegum, a Rico Carty baseball card and a rock he claimed was a piece of the moon.

Nor would they be suing his parents. Nope. Sue the school district. It never should have put something as dangerous as a swingset on the playground in the first place. Children could get hurt!

This brings me to the other potential liabilities to be found at schools and playgrounds.

How these things can be allowed to remain is beyond me, but after checking with all the honest lawyers I know, I've come up with a list of hazards that any responsible official should consider removing:

- Trees.

Actually, it's not the trees themselves that are so dangerous. It's the limbs. Without proper supervision and safety precautions, children are capable of actually climbing into trees with limbs and falling out. It's true. I've seen it happen.

- Chairs.

Chairs, if they are necessary, should be bolted to the floor. It would be much safer if children could simply sit on pillows on the floor. Non-allergic pillows, that is.

- Dirt.

The earth is filthy, full of germs and bugs and worms and spilled Mountain Dew and who knows what. Children may accidentally get dirt in their mouths. Some children, such as Jimmy Gilbert, will intentionally put dirt in their mouths. Or occasionally into other kids' mouths.

- Concrete.

God forbid. If you have to be told how dangerous concrete is, then you've never skinned your knee on the sidewalk. Be advised, however, that concrete is not to be replaced by dirt. See above.

- Monkey bars.

The name itself implies the horrors of this piece of playground equipment. Children are tempted to imitate chimpanzees by hanging by one arm or, if sufficiently motivated, upside down by their legs. Not only is this dangerous, it's de-evolutionary.

- Teeter-totters.

I don't see many teeter-totters around any more, so I guess these were removed before the swings. The problem with eliminating the No. 1 source of accidents on playgrounds is that something else then becomes the No. 1 source of accidents.

Teeter-totters are hilarious to fourth-graders, because they are designed as an instrument of trust. As long as you believe the person on the other end is not going to jump off, teeter-totters provide a serene form of entertainment. When you begin to doubt the person on the other end, however, you have taken an important step toward adulthood.

- Merry-go-rounds.

Going round and round, picking up speed, the merry-go-round could certainly be considered a place where children could fall off and be hurt. More often, however, it was a very bad place to play immediately after a macaroni-and-cheese lunch.

- Balls.

We used to play something called Dodge Ball. This has probably been outlawed, because if swings are dangerous then Dodge Ball is downright sadistic. It rewarded agility, courage and the desire to raise a welt on the skin of your most hated enemies.

- Children.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing more dangerous to a child than another child. If we really want to eliminate the hazards at schools, they should all be child-proof. In other words, remove the children entirely.

Or maybe we could just remove the Jimmy Gilberts from the schools. Then we could leave the swings.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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