UPDATE: School Bans Blowing Whistle to End Recess — Too Loud and Scary For Kids


Readers, the weekend has gotten away from me, so let me simply post this dhzysitdby
article from The Independent
, reporting that a school has stopped teachers from blowing whistles at the end of recess because the “aggressive” noise could scare some children:

St Monica’s Catholic Primary School in Milton Keynes has said instead of using whistles at the end of playtime, staff must raise their hands to tell pupils when it’s time to stop.

The ban was revealed by Pamela Cunningham, a teaching assistant at the school. In a letter to Country Life magazine, she said she still keeps her hand-carved whistle in her pocket “just in case” the children don’t spot her hand in an emergency.

Alan Smithers, a professor at Buckingham University, has described the ban as “crazy”. He told The Sunday Times: “We have become extraordinarily oversensitive….”

Yes we have. In fact, we have become so sensitive that we are sensing pain and trauma that doesn’t even exist. As Emma Kenny, a shrink interviewed in The Daily Mail, pointed out:

From my many years of experience with children and working with primary schools, I am yet to find a child who is scared of a whistle.

‘I think we are underestimating children – we have forgotten how resilient they actually are.’

When it is considered virtuous to be the first to notice a potential “issue” and over-react, then over-react we will. In fact, I wrote a piece about this once called “Overreaction Nation” (which, strangely, has someone else’s byline on it at the moment. But it really is by me. I am trying not to over-react).

This over-reacting on behalf of people who are not nearly as fragile as the over-reacter assumes is not really sensitivity. It’s condescension toward a group or person, and self-congratulation of the part of the oh-so-evolved sensitivity senser.

Yes, let’s try to be attuned to other people. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t experience some less-than-yoga moments.

UPDATE: The school just issued a statement saying that it has not banned whistles. I guess the teaching assistant who wrote the original note about the ban was wrong. What’s interesting is that someone misconstrued a rule that seemed so completely believable in this “think of the children” age that it gained immediate currency.

Okay, maybe THAT thing could be a little too loud.

Okay, maybe THAT thing could be a little too loud.


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30 Responses to UPDATE: School Bans Blowing Whistle to End Recess — Too Loud and Scary For Kids

  1. BL May 23, 2016 at 5:01 am #

    A whistle? So old-fashioned!

    These are modern children. You should text them to tell them recess is over.

  2. MichaelF May 23, 2016 at 6:02 am #

    Once hand raising becomes traumatic what’s next?

  3. Backroads May 23, 2016 at 6:45 am #

    Growing up in the 90s we had a bell. Aides didn’t want to carry them after awhile..enter the whistle.

    My current school played around for a grand whole two days on using hands and shouting to get the kids… because some old bat in the neighboring apartment complex didn’t like the whistle.

    Yeah… shouting and hand signals are ineffective.

  4. Donna May 23, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    Society has clearly lost its mind. I can think of nothing else to say in response to this.

  5. Theresa May 23, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    I didn’t notice the wrong byline even though I looked. It is silly how something not dangerous and maybe a pain in the neck turns into a huge deal. I not fond of loud sounds but I don’t try to stop them from existing.

  6. Michelle May 23, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    Glad to hear it’s not true. I was recently telling my husband that our homeschooled children need a school bell. We’re so often all engaged in our own projects (and scattered around the house), that we don’t notice it’s lunch time. A very loud alarm at 12:00pm every day would be so useful! 😉

  7. Beth May 23, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    I just linked to Overreaction Nation and your byline is on it, Lenore. You must have handled that without overreacting!!

  8. lollipoplover May 23, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    Thank you for sharing that awesome story!

    “The ring is, by Daniel’s reckoning, an “E-sharp” bell that dismisses fifth period and calls Bonita Vista High School students to lunch. It annoys Daniel, and once he decided it needed to be replaced, there was only one worthy substitute: “Slow Ride,” the classic rock staple by 70s rockers Foghat.”

    It’s good to have goals in life…

  9. Theresa May 23, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    I’m not surprised that someone would misunderstand the rule. But why would you need to be reminded that the classroom is for raising hands? My dad had to teach a teacher a messy lesson about raised hands when he was a kid. So it doesn’t make sense to need a reminder about it when we learn it in kindergarten. This is as silly saying a bubble gum at recess would distract someone.

  10. John May 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm #


    “I think we are underestimating children – we have forgotten how resilient they actually are.”

    Bingo! Bingo!! and……Double Bingo!!! Adults, particularly from most western nations, seem to project a condition of fragility onto children and that includes any person under the age of 18. Even 17-year-olds are assumed to be as fragile as 7-year-olds!

    A few years back on the local radio station, they were talking about teenagers as young as 15 getting tattoos. I guess some states have age limits and some states don’t. If they’re below a certain age, in some states they may just need parental consent.

    Well, one of the talk show hosts offered the absolute dumbest reason why a teenager should never get a tattoo. She said that getting a tattoo put on your skin can hurt and since teenagers are just children this could be a traumatic experience for them. Yep, she actually said that!!

    Now there are several reasons why a teenager should never get a tattoo but that is certainly not one of them! I mean, many American 15-year-olds get clobbered on the football field and slammed down on the wrestling mat so it’s pretty preposterous to believe they couldn’t handle a little momentary sting from a tattoo needle. In fact, teenagers probably have a higher pain tolerance than most adults!

    Why are people so stupid?

  11. Diego May 23, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    This is getting out of hand.

  12. HotInLa May 23, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    I’m so relieved that this is untrue.
    I once read that MK wasn’t a great place to live. I don’t know how true that is, but I’m glad they aren’t outlawing whistles.

  13. lollipoplover May 23, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    I’m grateful this story isn’t true.
    Because I can only imagine shielding children from…whistles when they are everywhere in the real world- at a swimming pool, sports practice, parades, in traffic, etc. Perhaps equip them with some bubblewrapped, whistleproof ear phones? Or send a Border Collie to round them up?
    Most kids already have headphones and are listening to blaring ipads and phones.
    I don’t think volume is a problem.

    Hopefully they won’t be traumatized by a Donna Summers song.

  14. Reziac May 23, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    We had a big damn bell on the school’s outside wall that could be clearly heard half a mile away. If you’d gone home for lunch you knew you had to hightail it back. If you were standing under it when it went off… well, you didn’t do that twice!

    Oh wait, that involved walking home for lunch, probably by yourself. Never mind!

  15. Reziac May 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Oh, and the local refinery plays the BBC chimes at noon and 6pm. It can be heard over two miles away. Clearly the objective is to traumatize the whole town and the countryside for miles around.

  16. SKL May 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm #


    The other day there was a forum thread about a 17yo wondering about a job he’d applied for as he wasn’t hearing back. About a third of the comments were about how he should worry about his identity being stolen because he filled out the employment forms and handed them over. One person suggested he should ask the employer to shred the application if he wasn’t hired.

    Is it a standard knee jerk reaction nowadays to always look for the potential evil in everything? Or am I just oversensitive to these thought processes?

  17. SKL May 23, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    In other news … my kids, who are now almost 5th graders, were stopped for walking together down the sidewalk last Saturday afternoon. They say the man told them “I don’t like to see kids walking alone.” They assured him their house was “just down the street” (not exactly true) and he buzzed off.

    Then of course my youngest decided she needed to be scared.

    Sick of this crap.

  18. Jane May 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    YES! Nicely put insight:

    “This over-reacting on behalf of people who are not nearly as fragile as the over-reacter assumes is not really sensitivity. It’s condescension toward a group or person, and self-congratulation of the part of the oh-so-evolved sensitivity senser.”

  19. jan smith May 23, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    self-congratulation – exactly!!! These are people with shaky esteem, seeking approval because they feel bad about having come up in the world vis a vis their old peer group.

  20. Craig May 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    Overreaction Nation gives rise to the Grievance Industry. *facepalm*

  21. sexhysteria May 24, 2016 at 1:46 am #

    Raise your hand as if you’re going to hit somebody?

  22. EricS May 24, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    Wow! Just when I think people like this couldn’t get more ignorant and stupid. I guarantee, you give every kid there a whistle, they will be blowing it for hours. Again, it’s always about the adults, less so about the children. I wouldn’t doubt it was an adult that kept getting startled whenever the whistle was blown. So they made a rule about it. lol

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  23. Papilio May 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Wouldn’t they be more traumatized by whatever their phone does when the battery is about to die?

  24. SKL May 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    Well there is another aspect here. Kids are way more sensitive to stimuli than they used to be. I’m always hearing about or dealing with kids who have sensory issues. Why is that? And what should we do about it?

    One of my kids has had “sensory sensitivities” that arise and go away over time. I’m not really sure why, but it’s part of her package of unique traits. I’ve never tried to shield her from whatever her sensitivities were; but I’d help her by preparing her for what’s to come and reassuring her that she can deal with it. Sometimes she needed to adapt her ways to the world, but I never asked the world to adapt to her quirks.

  25. andy May 24, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    @skl “I’m always hearing about or dealing with kids who have sensory issues. Why is that? And what should we do about it?”

    I dunno what to do about it, but in the past they were labeled bad kids and punished often and that is about it. Same as with dyslexia or other problems – they were labeled stupid or lazy and punished. Dropped out soon and were considered troublemakers.

    The overcorrecrion might go too far, but past was no ideal heaven for those kid.

  26. SKL May 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    Well Andy, if that were the whole story then today we would have a lot less dropouts and troublemakers. I don’t see where today’s gentler world has resulted in more successful kids.

  27. pentamom May 25, 2016 at 2:19 am #

    A lot of small towns with volunteer emergency services blow the air horn used to summon volunteers to the station for a call at noon every day, as a kind of test. The horn can be heard for miles.

    A small town near here has a large GE plant that still uses the external air horn at afternoon shift change every day.

    Think how traumatized all the kids in school and everyone else in the community must be, every day.

  28. Sarah June 2, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    I wonder what kids think when they see kids in the shows they watch on TV do things on their own – eg. walk to school, play in the park, go to the store, travel around the world, etc. at a young age. If they compare it to what they are allowed to do by themselves they are probably very disappointed.