Things Not Allowed in Classroom without a “Safety Data Sheet”: Dish Soap, Baby Wipes…

Readers – We all want some sensible safety precautions taken in schools, but as far as I can tell they were all in place about 50 years ago and don’t really need to get more persnickety. But just as something there is that loves a wall, something there is that loves another layer of excess precaution, bureaucracy and catastrophizing Hence, this note from a kindergarten teacher in Wisconsin:

Dear Free-Range Kids: This school year, we had lots of warnings from our administration and our custodial staff that we needed to be in compliance with this: We are not allowed to have anything remotely “chemical” in the classroom (including hand soap that wasn’t provided by the school and my own dish soap) without a Material Safety Data Sheet on hand, and another copy of the MSDS with the custodial staff. Kindergarten uses lots of baby wipes for wiping messes & sticky fingers, and they had to get an MSDS for every different brand of wipes that parents had sent in. Mind you, these wipes are safe enough to be used on BABIES, but apparently when you turn five, you suddenly have an urge to snack on them…?

We’re also having a crackdown on our fire safety precautions. We recently had to remove everything hanging from the ceilings. I know we’re lucky here because they haven’t limited us to covering only 20 % of the walls with posters –YET– as they have in some school districts in the area. In elementary school, there are so many charts we use as reference on a daily basis. They would prefer that we have these on easels or chart stands rather than hanging on the walls or from the ceiling. I can just imagine that if there is a fire, the children will all be tripping over all the chart stands, trying to get out. And really, is that piece of fishing line hanging from my ceiling going to be the make-it-or-break-it factor as to whether the whole school burns down?

(And here, let me confess that I teach 6- and 7-year-olds. This year I had to take home my own bottle of dish soap that I’d stored (hidden in a cabinet that kids never go in) for when I eat lunch in my classroom. I insisted to the administration that I don’t use it on anything that the kids touch or put into their mouths, just on my own dishes, and it’s DISH SOAP, so it should be relatively safe, right?  But — you guessed it — “kids might find it and drink it”!  Now I carry dirty dishes home from school. Ridiculous.)

Thanks for bringing some of these crazy things to the public eye. – A Bristling Teacher

Lenore here: Bristle away! Meantime,Ben Miller, a policy analyst at my partner in sanity, Common Good, notes:

So many well-intentioned regulations wind up working against their own purpose. Materials Safety Data Sheets are supposed to give workers a good idea of the risks associated with the chemicals they use. But when these sheets grow too bulky — and start obsessing over things like hand soap — no one has the time to read them. Teachers need simple guidance about materials that pose real dangers, not voluminous appendices of every possible danger. Common Good has some ideas for fixing the system.

Thank goodness! – L. 


Keep away from children and dishes?

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