Outrage o’ The Morning: Desks & Pencils “Too Dangerous” for Kids

Hi Readers — Here’s the latest. A quickie!

Dear Free-Range Kids: I belong to a fancy-dancy gym that has great childcare — kids play organized games, play on the playground and do real activities…no TVs or computers.

There are clipboards for the different age groups where you sign your child in and out.  Today when I walked in, the table that previously held these clipboards was gone. After looking around I found the clipboards sitting in clear plastic wall pockets mounted at about eye level, with pens in the pockets.  Another mom and I gave the coordinator a puzzled look and the coordinator explained, “We had to get rid of the table.  A parent complained that kids could stab other kids with the pens and pencils that were on the table.”

And so it goes.

46 Responses to Outrage o’ The Morning: Desks & Pencils “Too Dangerous” for Kids

  1. Elizabeth October 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    <3 @ Kurt Vonnegut.

  2. helenquine October 8, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Couldn’t they have asked the parent whose kids are obviously so untrustworthy not to use the facility anymore instead? I’m only half joking.

  3. Kate October 8, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    Think of the damage this parent will do once her kid hits elementary school!

  4. pentamom October 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    helenquine — I had a similar thought. I would think that keeping kids from hurting each other with otherwise innocuous implements would simply be the job of the people in charge, and any kid a groups of adults couldn’t handle probably just shouldn’t be there.

  5. Gareth October 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    And you know, a kid could get lead poisoning from getting stabbed with a pencil.

    (I joke! I joke! But a teacher really did say that to me in middle school.)

  6. Uly October 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Helenquine, I agree. If the parent really thinks kids are likely to do that, their kid needs constant, one-on-one supervision by people who know him or her.

    And for those who don’t get Gareth’s joke, the point is that pencil lead is not lead, although I believe people did used to write with actual lead pencils.

  7. Larry Harrison October 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    Why couldn’t they tell the parent “sorry, but we don’t agree with that,” and stand for what’s right? The right person could explain it in a professional, courteous tone.

    Am I to take it that they’re assuming a CYA disposition in case of a lawsuit? Sigh.


  8. Ben October 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Yeah, they could also stuff another kid’s head in the plastic wall pocket and suffocate them. That’s why there is a teacher: to avoid accidents and fights. By the way, I doubt kindergartners have any desire to stab their friends with pens or pencils — unless their parents instilled the idea in them that violence against classmates is okay…

  9. sue October 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Pencils aren’t the only dangerous object with “high stabbing potential.”

    Kids can stab each other and poke each other’s eyes out with their fingers just as easily as with a pencil. Does that mean we should amputate every kid’s fingers to prevent potential stabbings and loss of eyes?

    Whatever happened to common sense?

  10. Krista October 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    @helenquine – That was my reaction too. If that’s a Mom’s first thought, I assume it’s because it’s something she thinks *her* kid is likely to do, in which case I’d at least tell her that we’d be monitoring her child for that kind of aggressive behaviour… maybe she’d get the hint.

    This reminds me of my cousin’s wedding, though. It was at a pioneer village. We were wandering around before the ceremony and went into the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse mind you, which was made for kids. You could only get 2 feet in the door before it was roped off with a big sign “Caution, do not leave children unattended.”

  11. EricS October 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    LMAOF! Cowards. Giving into one parent’s fears, only to ruin it for the vast majority. Helenquine just mentioned the simplest, most common sense, non-paranoid, and fair solution.

    More and more I’m seeing these kinds of people (teachers, coordinators, camp coucilors, etc…) as just glorified babysitters, instead of the educators they are meant to be. Sad.

  12. Beth October 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    What’s going to happen when this parent’s precious snowflake goes to school? Is the school going to have to find some way to rid itself of all writing tools?

  13. Anna October 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    May I just say that I think some parents are really OVERBOARD ?? What’s she going to do when the kid goes to school?? Write in wax crayons???

  14. Michelle h October 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    I’m actually more disappointed that the daycare gave in to this ludicrous demand than anything.

  15. Stephanie - Home with the Kids October 8, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    But what about the clipboards? Those things can give fingers a vicious pinch!

  16. newbuffalomom October 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    @Anna- no because you might peel the paper off the crayons and choke.

  17. pebblekeeper October 8, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    I have a black circle on the palm of my hand from “checking” to see if my pencil was sharp enough in Kindergarten. I’m almost 40. :) Oh the things we learn in Kindergarten. Like don’t let weird girls over use the electric pencil sharpener. . . . .
    This article cracked me up and made me giggle at their crazy scardy cat ness. :)

  18. g2 October 9, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    So the pencils are at the kid check in where the parent is standing RIGHT THERE and they are worried about the kids getting suddenly violent and stabbing each other? Why are their kids so out of control to begin with? I agree with helenquine!

    Lenore have you seen the videos on mompetition.blogspot.com? You’d get a real kick out of the paranoid cartoon mom!

  19. Emily October 9, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    There’s a lot of danger with pens and pencils, but it’s mostly to walls…and the very young who lead with their mouths…

  20. TDR October 9, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    Sure that parent was overprotective and I feel sorry for her kids (do they have writing utensils at home??)

    I think the real problem is with organizations that cave at the first sign of disapproval from a customer. What wimps they are.

  21. Nok October 9, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    @ Sue

    They could start demanding that children wear padded mittens instead! *snicker*

  22. se7en October 9, 2010 at 4:05 am #

    Often when I read your blog I feel like Charlie Brown and I find myself just saying: “Good Grief!!!”

  23. Leppi October 9, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    My mother in law taught me that you do NOT rearrange your lief/apartment/surrounding because you get children!
    You teach you children the meaning of the word NO, and that not everything is a toy. That is hard work with the 0-3 yo, but noting compared to the work it is, if you wait untill they are 10 (or older)!

  24. ElsieKay October 9, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    What a crazy story – I worked in a preschool and had a parent tell me that she wanted all the scissors removed as her child might cut someone’s hair or his own. When I told her firmly (but politely) that that was not going to happen, she replied “when if he cuts someones hair then it will be your fault”. To which I responded “no, it will be HIS fault and he will only ever do it once”.

    This culture that its always someone else’s fault is ridiculous (and I am writing from Australia, so its not restricted to the US).

  25. Cindy Karnitz October 9, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Really, which is worse? The parent who complained? Or the gym that complied?

    I think the gym is worse for giving in.

  26. ElsieKay October 9, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    I forgot to add that the boy whose mother who wanted scissors removed later went on to stab a boy on the forehead with a plastic banana from Home Corner – left a lovely big bruise and broke the skin. And no we didnt remove all the plastic fruit from the preschool after this incident either.

  27. Larry Harrison October 9, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    @Leppi–I agree 100%. The day my children pay for this house THEN and ONLY THEN is it going to be designed for their nuances over mine, the one paying for it, the adult (1 of 2) in the house. My house, my rules (and the wife’s/mother’s)–when you’re 18, you can move out & buy your own if you don’t like it. Between now & then–tough tomatoes.

    @Cindy Karnitz. Exactly right. Tired of all this giving in. Too much of it, so sick of it. To paraphrase Lenore, I guarantee you that they’re “thinking like lawyers.”


  28. Steven October 9, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Woah “stop the press” so to speak, not lets have special containers for writing utensils at school and stop education in it’s feet!

  29. free-range teen October 9, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    I’m 15 and at a recent youth group event we had to build houses out of cardboard and duct tape, but our leader only let us use tiny plastic safety scissors to cut through cardboard. She said no when I asked if I could borrow a box cutter from the janitors closet and when I explained to her that I cook nearly every night and hadn’t nicked my hand with a knife in years she said she didn’t want me to slip.

    But even if I did slip, what’s the worst that could happen? I bleed, I clean, I band-aid, I move on with life. But no, we spent an hour longer than we needed to ripping the cardboard and duct-tape with our hands actually injuring ourselves more with the rough edges of the cardboard than if we could have just used real scissors or a box cutter. The crazy part is there was noone there under the age of 14 and all of our parents had signed liability wavers at the beginning of the year.

    I thought that adults would stop hovering around me when I got out of elementary school, then middle school, now I’m in high school and I’m still not allowed to be near anything sharp, and or pointy outside my own house! When will it end?

  30. bmj2k October 9, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    One parent complained so they “had to” get rid of the table? So if twelve complained about the lack of a table would they “have to” bring it back? Who is running that asylum?

  31. Gary October 9, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    I have tried to teach my children about the dangers of ordinary household objects. Pencils are POINTY, please be careful! Don’t burn your self with fire or boiling water while cooking, dont throw rocks or sticks, (you could put out someones eye!).

    I have tried to show them the right way to lead their lives. To enjoy the world around them. I try to engender a love of art and music. To that end I have purchased iPods for all three of the kids and have downloaded classic rock and old Bill Cosby comedy routines for them. What could be safer???
    Then I read THIS:

    The horror!

  32. Uly October 9, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    The real irony, FRT, is that the box cutter is SAFER than the scissors*. Sharp objects are LESS likely to slip, and do LESS damage when they do.

    *Unless you’re using the box cutter to attack other kids, which is probably the real reason she’s not giving them out, because she’s supposed to treat you all like violent criminals.

  33. Dave October 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    Why do we cave to the nuts? Why not say to the one mother that if she is so fearful of how things are run she should take her child some where else. When the nuts rule we all suffer.

  34. Juliet Robertson October 10, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    Well this all goes to show how dangerous everyday items are in and outdoors. I used to spend hours as a children taking apart pencil sharpeners to get the blades out.

    Has the centre undertaking an audit of everything else that is dangerous? Any books stacked up too high? Nippety filing cabinets that are determined to grab one’s hand that dares enter? Uh-oh…I hope the office has a staple-less stapler. Watch out for those erasers which can boing and bounce in random directions that WILL catch you in the eye. And as for the table….my-oh-my…DANGER- DANGER- DANGER! It is screaming at us about the potential for serious injury. Those visiting children and adults may dare to stand on it (is there a sign warning against this activity?) and risk falling off. If the height is above 60cm, safety surfacing maybe required.

    I am mopping my brow with the catastrophic possibilities.

  35. crystalblue October 10, 2010 at 5:39 am #

    I suppose that parent had all tables (and chairs, because they’re like little table but tippier) and writing implements, probably cooking and cutting implements as well removed from the parents’ home too?

    I had a child care client who was horrified that I had a front door on my house and was very concerned that her 18 month old might manage to open (hard to twist) doorknob, pull open the heavy door, climb off the porch and run into the street in a matter of nano-seconds. (I explained to her that it was a fire marshal rule that I have 2 exits in my home. How did she think she’d even bring her child into the house? Through a window?) She was also concerned that my house had stairs (even though they were gated off). As if stairs were some newfangled invention. People can be so weird.

  36. King Krak, I Smell the Stench October 10, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Why can’t a gym or a pre-school, etc., etc., stand up to crazy people like this?

  37. Bartimaeus October 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    The obvious reaction comes to my mind:


  38. JC October 11, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Pencils are bad – so I’m told. My mother [74] was appalled to learn one of my daughter’s teachers had provided party favors that included 2 pencils to a class of 6 year olds. She compared this to giving children scissors and telling them to run. Apparently first graders are not responsible enough to handle pencils in a classroom setting. All sharp objects must be removed from the world – only then will children be complete safe.

  39. Adam October 11, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    I stabbed myself in the leg with a sharp pencil when I was in fourth grade in the 1970’s. Just enough to break the point off under the skin. My mom called the doctor, and three doctor said it’s just graphite and is harmless. It’s still in my leg to this day. He didn’t say anything about monkeys jumping on the bed, though…

  40. librarymomma October 13, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    My son is 6 and has always preferred writing/drawing with a pen or pencil rather than use crayons, even when he was two and three years old. He’s never stabbed anyone or himself with these implements, although he has drawn on himself and our table more times than I can count.

    Couldn’t the school have instead removed the pencils and pens from the table during the school day rather than get rid of the entire set up? Or, as others have mentioned here, just told the kids not to touch the things?

  41. ElsieKay October 13, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    JC- are you saying that 6 year olds can not have pencils? What do they write with? That is just plain crazy!

  42. Metal Halide Lamp : October 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    actually, the best filing cabinets are those that are made of tempered steel because they are very strong ,’

  43. Ambrose September 8, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    Heya good publish , Thank you sharing this information

  44. adrianna papell tiered chiffon dress April 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Great write-up! I’m also going to publish a blog post about it… thanks

  45. Ben August 5, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    How are kids supposed to start reading and WRITING in elementary school when they haven’t been told how to handle pencils safely before that?

    I’d be much more worried about accidental pokes than purposely perpetrated violence, which is exactly why I’d like kids to be taught how to do things safely.


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