Schoolyard Off Limits to Kids?

Readers zeaaizbyab
— My guess is what we have here is a terrible insurance regulation or some such. This is from Ontario, Canada:

Dear Free Range Kids:

My kids, grade 1 and 4, are among the few at our suburban school who actually walk to school. We have several playgrounds in our neighbourhood, and with a “buddy system” in place (my choice — not mandated), they are sometimes allowed to go to these parks unattended.

Our public elementary schoolyard is one of these places. Trouble is, the school has recently, by way of formal email to all parents, decried that no children are to be on the schoolyard in the mornings prior to 9:00 a.m. (when “supervision” begins) – stating that because there is no supervision, the yard is not safe. Lately staff members have been conducting “stings” whereby they check the yard before 9:00 and bring kids who are in attendance into the office for a “talk” and  call to their parents!

Am I wrong to be offended by this? On a gorgeous spring morning I hate to tell my kids they have to stay inside with me or go to a different park when they are already on their way to school.  The school yard is not fenced in any way, and is considered public use space any other time outside of school operating hours. There are no signs posted advising that access is limited.

I don’t like to cause problems with administration and I know they are well-meaning, but I feel strongly that if it’s outside operating hours, the school park is just that – a park. Just because some people think outdoor morning play is “unsafe” doesn’t mean I have to. — Ontario Mom

Lenore here: It feels so arbitrary — one daylight hour the park is safe, another daylight hour it’s not — that clearly some kind of unseen policy is in place. I’d suggest you try to hunt it down. Once you know the actual “reason” for this rule, then you can discuss it, either with the PTA, the community, the principal or the local government. Or the press! We’d love to hear how it goes!

We certainly wouldn't want kids gathering to PLAY, would we?

We certainly wouldn’t want kids gathering to PLAY, would we?

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86 Responses to Schoolyard Off Limits to Kids?

  1. SOA May 20, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    This may be an insurance thing. Or it may be that many students were dawdling on the playground and therefore being tardy for school starting. I could understand doing it for those two reasons but there are also solutions for those as well like only banning the kids who are tardy from the playground in the morning or having the parents sign a liability release.

    Otherwise it is good to let kids get their energy out a bit before the bell rings. I let my kids walk to school and that kinda gets some energy out and it helps.

    Our playgrounds are installing security cameras but I found out the reason is because teenagers have been vandalizing the playgrounds by graffiti or leaving trash or tearing stuff up and apparently there was even a poop on the slide issue. But otherwise the school grounds are free to use during non school hours.

  2. Cynthia812 May 20, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    The thing that stands out to me is that there’s no supervision until 9:00- which I assume means school starts even later. Lucky dogs. (But I do think it’s ridiculous not to let kids play there). At my kids’ school, they watch movies before school instead of playing. I hate it.

  3. lollipoplover May 20, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    We have similar absurd rules about being on the playground “unsupervised” but that just means the school wants children signed up for the before or aftercare programs (and the money that goes with them) to use the playground outside of school hours.

    Most of the kids around here who walk or bike to school meet up in my driveway and play (I know they’ve arrived with the sound of basketballs bouncing) as they gather themselves together. After school, they cannot get off school property fast enough to get home and play freely.

    The students who are driven only have a 15 minute window to be dropped off/picked up and if they are early, they must wait in the car with the parent vs. waiting outside the door *alone*. Biking is just so much easier than dealing with this madness.

  4. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    @lollipoplover, that was my thought exactly, that the school wanted kids who come early to be in before-care.

    It’s also possible that parents were abusing the system and dropping kids off extremely early in order to have a kind of “before-care” without actually paying for it.

  5. J.T. Wenting May 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    nobody allowed on the school grounds before 9AM?
    When I was in school classes started at 8AM, everyone was supposed to be in their classrooms 10-15 minutes before that. By 7:30AM the school grounds were bustling with children, even a few parents dropping them off (but most came on their own, often from miles away and sometimes further (farthest was probably 10 miles in primary school, 30+ in highschool, those schools served a regional function)).
    And yes, children hiked, biked, or sometimes used line busses to travel that distance on their own at age 6-8.

  6. Kimberly May 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    As a teacher I suspect the problem is that the kids are not transitioning to the school day smoothly. I can’t imagine showing movies before school.

    At my school 7:00 – 7:30 is jam packed,
    1. Feeding 600 kids breakfast
    2. Kids go to gym K-1 read books, 2-5 start their bell work

  7. Jessi May 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Our school has a similar rule because people were dropping off their child who was totally not able to be on their own, had no experience with being on their own, which led to them being panicked and hysterical and the school was having to supervise these children before official hours which created all kinds of other issues.
    Rather than risk people doing that, they just laid a blanket rule that no children could be there until a particular time.
    Is it fair to those who can be on their own and play? No, but people exploiting it and not preparing their children for it are to blame.

  8. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    @Jessi, I can see that happening. People dropping off kindergarteners who aren’t prepared to play alone and supervise themselves for a while an hour or more early, so they can get to work on time, and then teachers are really left with no choice but to come out and do playground duty during what should be their prep time. I do think rules like this probably often have more to do with parents abusing the system (there’s not rule saying they *can’t* drop off their immature 5yo at 7 a.m., so why not do it?) than with actual fears about children’s safety.

  9. Mark Swan May 20, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    I agree it is probably more about parents not wanting to pay for before school care, but I think the school should take the hard line the other way. As soon as staff starts checking they risk being held responsible, so don’t check. Be clear with parents that the school is not responsible for the playground outside of school hours.

  10. Kate May 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    My kid’s school has this policy, and the reason is because there *are* staff on the grounds, and laxity on this kind of thing can lead to quantities of school kids being dropped off early (easier than dealing with the traffic later!). This can leave the teachers/office staff feeling responsible for the kids because they do care about their well-being, and because any incidents on an unsupervised playground in the morning might carry over into the school day.

    Heck, this almost could be my kid’s school. We’re in Ontario, and the school day was shifted later just this year.

  11. Elaine May 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    My kids had to be at school at least 15mins before the bell. Classes started at 9, most days the school yard was full of kids k-8 grade by 8:30.

  12. Suzanne May 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I don’t know why but my daughter’s old school had a similar rule even when I was standing right there clearly supervising her.

  13. Vicki Bradley May 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I have encountered this situation at my kids’ school, whereby my 12-year-old daughter has been told she has to go home after school, instead of being able to play with her friends behind the school. They are on public property when they do so, so it makes no sense to me. She’s also been told by perfect strangers that she is not allowed to climb trees, even though I allow her to. It infuriates me how many similarly ridiculous situations I’ve come across over the years, which is why this website has become my sanctuary of sanity – it’s so wonderful to hear from like-minded individuals.

  14. Emily May 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I like Mark Swan’s approach. During school hours, the school playground is the school playground, and after hours, it’s just like any other public playground–kids play at their own risk, or under the supervision of whichever adult or older child brought them there. That’s how it was when I was a kid–school playgrounds had the dual purpose of being both for the school, and for the general public. In fact, I think the general public was even allowed on the playground when school was in session. I know that I saw a few stray kids (really little kids, or homeschooled kids) on the playground during recess, or while I was in class, and nobody thought anything of it. At the school I went to from grades 5-8, there wasn’t really much of a playground, but there were basketball nets, and hopscotch, four-square, etc. Many of the students who attended that school were from lower-income families, or had parents who just didn’t care, and would either drop their kids off at school, or send their kids to school, hours early. Now, the school couldn’t actively “ban” this, so they just sent home a letter saying that supervision started and finished at X and Y times, and that it was best for students to arrive no more than 15-20 minutes before school started, and to “check in at home before playing with friends.” I’m not sure how effective this was, but if I remember correctly, that one letter home was the extent of it–the school didn’t press the issue, because they knew that what happened outside of school hours was beyond their purview.

  15. EricS May 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    It’s refreshing to hear that kids are allowed to walk to school with no drama from the school. Which leads me to believe this particular issue is about liability (perhaps an insurance issue too, but I doubt that).

    TEACHERS don’t want to put in extra time in the morning to watch kids play before they head inside for the school day, probably because THEY aren’t getting paid extra. So to avoid having to pay extra, and don’t want to get sued in case children hurt themselves (like most children do on a daily), they make their own policy about “no access prior to 9am”. Kill two birds with on stone.

    Most stupid rules, policies, and procedures these days is ALL about litigation. More specifically, to avoid one. If it were really about the children, the school would make all necessary decisions to make sure someone was out there prior to 9am. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

    Not sure about others here, but in my day at elementary school, there was always 2 teachers in the school playground prior to school starting. Most kids were there 15-20 minutes early, so that we can play before heading in. School started at 9am, we had recess at 1030am, lunch at noon, another recess at 130pm, and out at 330pm. And on rainy days, we had a choice of playing indoors or outdoors. And sometimes, there wouldn’t be a teacher outside during rainy days. We all survived. Wet, but survived. lol

  16. Warren May 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Tell the school to stick it, and send the kids. Until school starts it is no different than a public park, paid for with our taxes.
    Kimberly, mentioned feeding 600 kids breakfast. Why the hell are schools becoming restaurants? This is crap. Parents should be feeding the kids, and teachers teaching.

  17. Kenny Felder May 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    I seriously doubt you’ll win this one. The logic goes: some kid might hurt himself playing when no teachers are around, and then the school will get sued.

  18. SOA May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Our school starts at 8:10, most others start at 8:30 for elmentary. The kids come in and either can go get breakfast in cafeteria or grades 2-5 go in the gym and have to sit in lines by class and grade and wait for the bell to ring.I assume they can read or talk or finish homework etc.

    The kindergartners have to go into the music room and they watch PBS kids.

    The first graders go into the library and watch PBS kids.

    Then the bell rings and they all go to class. No one plays on the playground but mostly because it is barely even light some days by that time and everyone is in a rush to get there on time in the mornings. After school most parents just pick the kids right up in car line and drive off. We are the only walkers mostly and sometimes we linger on the playground before walking home and nobody seems to have a problem with it.

  19. Emily May 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    @Warren–I think Kimberley teaches at a Title I school, where a certain population of students (maybe half?) are from lower-income families, so the school provides breakfast because some parents are in situations where they have to choose between food or heat/water/electricity. Circumstances can change quickly, the economy is pretty bad right now, and honestly, even if the parents are irresponsible, it’s not the kids’ fault. Obviously, the school thinks that providing breakfast is important, and obviously, the program is necessary, because students are taking the school up on it. In my mind, for lower-income students, it’s kind of part and parcel with the “free public education” deal. I mean, no child can learn on an empty stomach, and so, since a significant percentage of parents can’t fill their kids’ stomachs before school, the school’s taking care of it, and for some kids, that might mean that the lights can stay on at their houses. I’ve heard of some schools’ breakfast programs being funded by grocery stores or other corporate sponsors, and/or through donations from the general public. I’m not exactly sure how Kimberley’s school does it, but I think it’s a good thing, because it levels the playing field out a bit.

    After all, the schools can’t ensure that all of the parents are involved in their kids’ academic lives enough to send them to school with the proper supplies, ensure that their homework gets done, attend parent-teacher conferences, et cetera. They can’t ensure that all the students have an appropriate place at home to do homework, they can’t (easily) provide winter clothing for all the students so that they can participate in outdoor recess in the snow (although, Kimberley lives in Texas, so that’s not really an issue for her), but they can at least make sure that nobody’s too hungry to learn. I’m sure these free breakfasts are fairly simplistic anyway, given the time constraints. So, I hardly think that handing a child an apple and a granola bar (or whatever) in the morning, qualifies as “schools becoming restaurants.”

    Looking back, my elementary schools didn’t really have a food program in place (except there might have been PBJ’s, juice boxes, and other snacks in the office for the asking for kids who came without lunches), but my high school had a sort of low-key program to provide students in need with breakfast and (I think) lunch from the cafeteria. They got pretty much the same food everyone else did; they just paid with vouchers. The only restriction was that they couldn’t use these vouchers to buy junk food. Also, I’ve visited my old high school in recent years, and they have a big bowl of apples, and wrapped deli-meat sandwiches in the office, either instead of, or in addition to, the old “cafeteria voucher” program. They had all of this set up on the office counter, next to the Band-Aids that were always there when I was a student there too. I know that this may sound excessive, but when I was at that school, it kind of made me think, “Our school cares about us.” Looking back as an adult, I feel the same way. I’m all for advocating responsibility, but there are some things that are beyond some people’s control, and for young people, they can’t control how much money their parents make. There are so many articles circulating around about how kids from lower-income families have a harder time in school, that it just makes sense to do something about that, and address at least some of their basic needs, so that they can have a better chance at success, and help break the cycle of poverty going forward.

  20. marie May 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    …and then teachers are really left with no choice but to come out and do playground duty during what should be their prep time.

    No choice? Are the teachers out on the playground supervising when kids play there during evenings and weekends? If it is their prep time, the teachers should put their collective (teachers’ union…hello?) foot down and insist on using it that way.

    I wonder what the consequences are if parents send their kids out to play there anyway. When the early morning sting pulls kids into the office and parents are called, parents should be all, “Yeah. What of it? Don’t call me unless there is a bone sticking out.”

    The 9:00 start time probably has to do with bus schedules.

  21. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Could teachers put their foot down? Sure. But if there’s a screaming, hysterical five year old, I think most adults are going to intervene. I think it puts teachers in a very difficult position, and I’m guessing a good number of parents who do drop their kids off early expect the teachers to watch the kids on their off time.

    I worked at a summer day camp for many years, and while some parents did just let their kids play on the playground before camp began, others dropped their kids off early clearly intending that we would, since we were there anyway, start watching them half an hour or more before the intended start time. There are some parents who will completely take advantage of situations like this.

  22. Christina May 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    If my kids’ school tried this, I’m pretty sure it would fall on deaf ears. Whenever the weather is nice enough, I drop my boys off anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes early and the playground is PACKED. My kids are in first grade, and the first time I dropped them off early, they asked if I was going to stick around. I told them “only if you need me to”. Within 10 seconds or so, they were yelling goodbyes, and their little faces were glowing as they ran off to play.

  23. anonymous this time May 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Oh, we’ve dealt with this one, too. I’m with those who say the playground is for anyone before school supervision officially starts, and the kids are no more the school’s problem 20 minutes before that than they would be on a Saturday.

    Why, the school even insisted that my boys not play football on school grounds before the official school supervision began. I was like, “What the hell? You can’t tell kids what to play and what not to play if it’s happening before you’re officially on duty, right?” I just told the boys to play at an adjacent park across the street, clearly City property and not part of the school, and play whatever they wanted to.

    Why can’t schools handle things on a case-by-case basis? If one kid falls down and goes boom, and comes screaming into the school for first aid before school is “officially open,” this means that hundreds of uneventful hours of positive activity can’t convene? How about the school address that one child’s family instead of making a blanket “rule” that isn’t even legal?

    Our elementary tried to tell me that it was against the rules for my 7-year-old to ride his bike there. Excuse me? How is it any of your damned concern what mode of transport is employed to get this kid to your door? “Grade three and above,” they said, was the rule. Thanks for that, folks. You’ve made my life with my paranoid ex so much easier now, and convinced my kid that normal, age-appropriate self-transport is SO RISKY.

    Stay out of it, schools! Lock your doors and pull the shades if you don’t want to be bothered with what’s happening on the playground before “official school hours” begin! And if you do intervene in something that’s happening out there, consider the percentage of children who are being left to their own devices and unable to handle it. It’s probably minuscule, really.

  24. E May 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    Interesting comments….the kids being dropped off extra early is probably part of the issue since school starts so late!

    That….and/or someone’s kid got hurt/pushed/whatever and it happened “on the playground” and complained to the school. You only have to witness one parent lose their crap about something and see how they deal with the school to know how unreasonable they can be.

    Probably all of the above.

  25. SOA May 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    The thing is decent people whether it be other parents on the playground supervising their own kids or teachers are going to feel like they have to intercede if a kid gets hurt or is acting up or crying hysterically. Because that is what decent people do. However, they also get annoyed by the situation because basically the other parents are being lazy and neglectful and making their kid someone else’s problem.

    I am all for free range kids but kids that can handle it. If your kid is acting up or does not know how to handle themselves then you need to be there with them. Because making it someone else’s problem is not cool unless they agree to watch out for your kid.

  26. marie May 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    What is it with references to hysterical kids on the playground? How often does that happen? And if a child is hysterical, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it IS a big deal. I hear “hysterically crying child” and I file it under the same category as “child predator”. The idea of a hysterically crying child is brought up because we all know that we would react to that event…even though the event is extremely rare, just as a child predator on the playground (or anywhere) is extremely rare.

    Kids love playgrounds and they love playing without adults hanging around. Sometimes kids get hurt and cry. Most of the time, it is no big deal and if there is no adult around, the other kids will rub some dirt in it and coax the kid to come play again.

    And the world goes on.

  27. bobca May 20, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Maybe they should play in the street instead…?

  28. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Kids do love playgrounds, but littler kids also go from having fun to being hysterical very quickly. I was at a birthday party this weekend, and in 2-1/2 hours about half a dozen of the 5-and-unders had brief but very dramatic meltdowns, including hysterical crying and screaming, over various things like falling off a scooter or another child not sharing the toy they wanted. I’m not going to say the meltdowns were a result of their parents poor parenting, but just of them being little kids.

    I don’t like the rule, and I certainly think most elementary-school-aged children can play on a playground alone. But, it just takes a few parents who leave their young kindergarteners or very immature first-graders there knowing their child cannot play well without adult supervision somewhere nearby but figuring that, hey, since the teachers are there, they’ll take care of it, to ruin it for everybody. I don’t think making a rule banning it is the best way to handle it, but I don’t doubt that there are kids in elementary school too young to be on a playground for long without adult supervision.

    I worked at a mall bookstore for a while, and they eventually had a rule that no children were allowed to be unattended in the store. Why? It wasn’t because they thought it was dangerous for 9 year olds to be in a bookstore alone, but because, especially during Christmas, it was surprisingly common for parents to leave preschool-aged children in the children’s section while they went shopping in other parts of the mall, as if it was the job of the bookstore staff to babysit their children (and to clean up the messes their children made). They weren’t being free-range, just lazy. I know it sucks to drag little kids shopping, but you can’t just basically force other people into babysitting them for free.

    I just don’t ever underestimate the ways people will find to abuse any system to their advantage.

  29. Lisa May 20, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    It seems they could address the problem of too-young kids being left unsupervised with a more appropriately tailored rule. How about “children 5 and under must be accompanied by an adult or older sibling”? Why do crying kindergarteners mean that 5th graders can’t play before school, especially with such a late start time?
    My daughter’s elementary school started at 8:15, and playground supervision began at 8:00 (they went inside to their classrooms at 8:10). We were lucky enough to have a public park across the street, so she just played there if she was early. And yes, starting when she was in 2nd grade, I dropped her off at 7:50 so I could get to work at 8… playing for an extra 10 minutes didn’t hurt her any. By 3rd grade, she was walking so only played before school if she was really on top of things 😉 After school, though, there were no teachers supervising the playground, and lots of kids stayed on the school playground. Most had parents there who had arrived for pickup, but noone was “in charge”… just friendly people around that would help if a kid asked for something, just like on a Saturday.

  30. Stacy May 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I just have to add a positive comment about my daughter’s teacher. Her school has annoyingly strict recess playground rules that she and her friends are frequently reminded of, but her teacher is in charge during extra recesses and gives them much more leeway. My daughter just told me that her teacher has been praising their creative games, which happen to violate various playground rules, like no chasing or pretending to capture each other. The teacher strongly believes in balancing sitting and learning with running and playing, even in upper elementary. If only the administration would learn something from her.

  31. Sherri May 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    My kids school in Manitoba has the same policy. There is no supervision until 8:50am (school starts at 9:00am), so kids are not allowed to be in the school yard until 8:50am. I have been told it is a liability issue. Oddly enough the kids are allowed to play unsupervised on the playground after school, providing they first go home and check in with their parents.

  32. E May 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    @Lisa, because I’m guessing a lot of kids have siblings. I’m guessing parents are going to push the ‘guidelines’ in those cases. I’m guessing it’s just become a pain for the school.

    I guess that’s the thing missing from the post…what does the school say is the reason (beyond not staffing until 9am). Was it that too many kids (with a wider age range) were there for too long? What made it unsafe?

    At my elem school in NJ (many decades ago), we all walked to school and we waited outside a specific entry designated for our grade. We were allowed to play a little, I don’t recall if it was supervised. I also recall boys flipping up our dresses to see our underwear (girls were req’d to wear dresses/skirts until I was in 3rd grade and my Mom wrote a note saying I was permitted to wear pants). So that’s my childhood memory from pre-school activities, lol.

    When we moved to the south (and have raised our kids here), every school allowed/expects kids to come into school immediately.

  33. Cassie May 20, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    I understand that a large amount of unsupervised kids turning to teachers (who are trying to have a quite cup-of-tea and finish up some lessons plans) can be a problem – I was once a teacher too, and I completely understand this.

    If the number of kids become significant enough to make this a problem… would it be possible to organise the P&C (I think it is PTA in the US) to have a parent supervision roster. Run to the parent if you skin your knee, not the teacher in the classroom trying to finish up her morning jobs.

    I guess that sounds all non-free-range too, because I doubt a parent would be content to sit out-of-the-way with a cuppa and ignore the kids (unless one sought her out)… I imagine it would quickly turn into parents-in-the-playground.

  34. anonymous this time May 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    I would say the same measure of whether kids are “ready” to arrive at a school playground before opening hours would be applied to any activity they would undertake on their own.

    As in: if you turn your kid loose to play at parks unsupervised, and assume that if they fall and hurt themselves, they will have to depend on kindly passers-by, as there are no official adults supervising, then I can’t see why it is any different to turn your kid loose to play at the school grounds before supervision officially begins.

    Do people turn their kindergarteners loose at the park to play by themselves? Well, if not, then they shouldn’t drop them off significantly early before school, then. But once my kid is able to get themselves to school, or the park, and I’ve decided it’s okay for them to play there without “help,” then don’t tell me where they can go and play, thanks! And if you don’t want to help out if they break their arm, then someone else can! I don’t think it’s the school’s duty to help my kid with anything before it’s open for business.

  35. SOA May 20, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Anonymous mom is right. I worked in KB toys in the mall and same thing. Parents would drop off kids of all ages even pretty small likes like 6 and under in the toy store while they went and shopped elsewhere in the mall. Then we felt like we were responsible for them as they knocked over displays and pulled toys off shelves to leave in the middle of the aisle or would start jumping on the stacked up baby pools on display.

    We had other things to do and could not babysit. They never even bought anything. Now the store is gone but they have a toddler play area for kids 5 and under and parents drop off big kids too old to be in there while they shop so they run over the toddlers. So yes, there is a difference between being free range and just being a lazy parent. And there are a lot of lazy parents out there. I will never not get angry at the lazy parents who ruin it for everybody else.

    And what the other poster said about little kids are going to have issues with fighting over a toy or swing or getting mad at each other or falling down and getting hurt or whatever. That is why at recess you have teachers out there monitoring to deal with that stuff.

    So the suggestion to have parents volunteer to rotate and supervise sounds very good. Just so they are there and can step in if need be. I let my kids just run and play at playgrounds and I do not follow them around. I sit and read my book but I am still there if something comes up and they need me at 6 years old.

    To the poster that said if you don’t wanna help your kid when they fall and break their arm, don’t help them someone else will. Well what if no one else is there? Then what? I would not walk away from a kid seriously hurt like that. I am too nice a person, but say if we were just about to leave the park for an appointment, you just kinda screwed us. So it is putting responsibility on other people for your kid.

  36. Jenny Islander May 20, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    If this were a U.S. school, I would look at the realities of the work world as a cause. Wages haven’t kept pace with inflation since the ’70s. Even in two-parent families there is nobody to watch the child at home, because both parents have to work or be out looking for work. Years of union busting and other legalized jiggery-pokery have made it difficult for two working parents even to find jobs that offer opposite hours on a reliable basis; they’re called in whenever, for as long as ever, and if they complain there are three dozen other people desperate for that job. Day care is for very poor people who qualify for subsidized day care and make it to the top of the local waiting list, or for comfortable people–a huge swath of the population falls into the reality gap between officially poor enough and actually poor. Pay a babysitter? Ah ha ha ha with what money. So where else are the kids supposed to go?

  37. Jenny Islander May 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Forgot the last sentence: I don’t know how much of this applies to Canada, but judging from what I’ve read about how hard it is for poor people to get enough food there, conditions aren’t exactly idyllic.

  38. E Simms May 20, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I think if more kids got the chance to play before school that the kids’ ability to concentrate would go way up and that ADHD “diagnosis” would drop dramatically. You would think that the school administration would be all for that.

    (I am not saying that ADHD isn’t a real condition. Just that it’s way over diagnosed.)

  39. Warren May 20, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    Again, call the school and tell them sucks to be them. And let your kids play. Be there in the shadows the first couple days just to jump in the staff’s face should they decide to confront your kids. They back off real quick when they have to deal with you in person, and not by email or letter.

    They really have a hard time handling someone that does not bend over to kiss their butts.

    Again, simple reminder that they work for you, and you do have a number of avenues to take, that will make their life very miserable.

  40. Emily May 21, 2014 at 1:20 am #

    @Warren, would you really tell the school, “sucks to be you” in those words, or would you say something like, “My kids are responsible, and I’ve decided that it’s safe for them to play on the playground by themselves, because I’m their father?” Both statements mean the same thing, but I don’t know a lot of adults who say “sucks to be you” on a regular basis.

  41. Kerry Eady May 21, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    You know I came here today on a search for a solution to a problem our independent school is having with this. The issue is this – bigger unsupervised kids do fine being left alone to play grade 3 and up have no problems on the sledding hill, in the forest, in the playground itself….but we have a few parents who let their kindergarten aged kids roam freely too, and *inevitably* once a week they get into serious trouble – revving the family car they were left with the keys to (just to scare the kids), throwing large rocks at plate glass windows (just to get the people inside’s attention, urinating on the mittens that were hanging on the line.(I don’t know why), completely destroying a grades building project – a pollinator hotel (I dunno why). Now because 1 or 2 families don’t have the sense to supervise their very young children we may have to institute a school wide policy about supervision. All we want is for before and after school supervision for parents to supervise their *young* kids on campus. We’ve spoken to the parents repeatedly and that hasn’t worked, so now we may be forced to ake a broad policy about it.

  42. BL May 21, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    @Kerry Eady
    “throwing large rocks at plate glass windows (just to get the people inside’s attention, urinating on the mittens that were hanging on the line.(I don’t know why), completely destroying a grades building project – a pollinator hotel (I dunno why). Now because 1 or 2 families don’t have the sense to supervise their very young children we may have to institute a school wide policy about supervision. ”

    These sound like criminal acts for which the perps should be held individually responsible. Don’t punish the non-criminals.

  43. Kerry Eady May 21, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    BL So what criminal proceedings would you suggest for 2 5 yr olds (one with developmental delays)?

  44. Kerry Eady May 21, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    BL I have no doubt if left to his own devices my own 5 year old would get into similar situations – most of the kindergarten aged children would, whether it was “minor” like picking all the flowers in the school garden, or pulling apart a pollinator hotel to see what was inside – kindergarteners *need* supervision.

  45. BL May 21, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    @Kerry Eady
    “So what criminal proceedings would you suggest for 2 5 yr olds”

    Well, let’s see. Isolate them from the decent kids? Spank them? Make them do something to make amends?

    Breaking windows (with LARGE rocks, you say? And these are 5-year-olds?), pissing on laundry and destroying science projects aren’t just youthful orneriness. Those are things anyone knows are wrong. Deliberate evil.

    All you offer is to treat all the non-offending children like criminals who need to be “supervised”, like probationers if not prisoners.

  46. Emily May 21, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    I agree with BL. Why is it okay to ban all kids from using the playground, because a few kids engaged in property damage? It wouldn’t be considered okay to, say, ban all adults from a public park or beach because a few adults got drunk and left broken glass everywhere. Now, in that case, it’s much harder to figure out who did it, so it’s harder to “crack down” on the behaviour, so a large part of my childhood beach excursions involved watching out for broken glass, but with school kids, the teachers and parents mostly know the kids, so they could easily find out who was behind the destruction of the pollinator hotel, and the peeing on the mittens. Yes, that’s more trouble than a blanket ban, but that’s how things work in the real world–the innocent aren’t punished along with the guilty, and isn’t school supposed to prepare kids for the real world?

  47. Donna May 21, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    Emily – The fallacy of your argument is viewing a school playground as a public place that people have a right to access any time. It is not. It is school property that the school graciously allows the public to use outside of school hours but need not. The school need not allow anyone to use the property outside of school hours any more than you have a right to access a courthouse after hours or national parks on days that they are closed.

    Further, your argument isn’t even factually accurate. Many public parks and beaches DO have hours of operation, resulting in ALL people being kept out during certain times. Many of those hours of operation are directly related to the desire to control vandalism during the late-night hours.

  48. Pam May 21, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Anyone who brings kids into the society we are now living in, deserves whatever happens to them as a result (shrug)

    You might as well stroll across a superhighway with your eyes closed.

    Which is why the number of people who choose not to have children is rising rapidly.

  49. Emily May 21, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    @Donna–Fair point on national parks, the courthouse, etc., but as I said before, where I live, school playgrounds are treated like public parks when they’re not in use by the school kids, and none of the public parks in my area have operating hours either, as far as I know. This story happened in Ontario, and I live in Ontario, so it’s pretty close to home–different city, but same province. But, either way, it’s a pretty obnoxious set-up. The school starts at 9:00 a.m., they want the parents to drop the kids off at exactly 9:00 a.m., and a lot of people’s jobs also start at 9:00 a.m. There aren’t usually a lot of “before care” options for school age kids that will take them for 10-15 minutes in the morning, and even if there are, that’s just another unnecessary step in an already hectic morning routine. What about kids who are bused to school, and the bus arrives early? Are they meant to stay on the bus until the bell rings? What about the kids who walk, and arrive a few minutes early? Are they allowed to wait outside or inside the school, or are they banned from school property altogether until the bell rings? My point is, this whole story seems to be making a huge deal out of the inevitable–if you ask people, of any age, to arrive at anything, at a certain time, and punctuality matters, then some of those people are going to be a few minutes early, because they don’t want to be late. The insane “15-minute drop-off and pick-up windows” don’t work either–they lead to bottlenecks in the parking lot, and angry parents as a result. So, it’d be much easier on everyone EXCEPT the teachers, if the kids were allowed to play outside on the schoolyard before school, as kids have been doing since I was a kid, and probably before then. Back then, there were teachers doing playground duty before school, and sometimes there were also parent volunteers who helped with that, and also with recess. That’s how it was, because nobody expected everything to run like clockwork, especially when kids were involved.

  50. Kerry Eady May 21, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    I agree with Donna, we’re (faculty and parents – this is a private community school – it is not public space at all) looking for a solution that doesn’t infringe on the children who can be left unsupervised – but this is a small school less than 75 students ages 3-14 – the only children getting in trouble are kindergarteners and the only kindergarteners getting in trouble are also the only kindergarteners being left to roam unsupervised out of school hours – everyone else in the community keeps an eye on their 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 year olds – we are a very free range community – we as faculty even allow and encourage tree climbing as long as there are two faculty present (so if there is a fall or a child trapped too high one teacher can stay with that child get aid etc and the other can look after the rest of the group). The issue here is particular parents not supervising their young children – we’ve tried restorative justice and it’s targetting children who developmentally are not able to plan further ahead with actions throw a rock to get people’s attention – didn’t occur to him that the window might break, revving the car, didn’t occur to them that it might have gotten judged out of park while they played in the front seat, peeing on mittens gets a laugh in the immediacy of the moment…I wonder if any of you realize how often in a school day we have to remind little children that they can’t use the badminton rackets to lob rocks, or that reaching under a boulder 3 people have pried up with a shovel is dangerous because they might lose their grip on it as they train to keep it up? All they’re thinking about is reaching in to pull out bugs. By age 8 they are self regulating, at 5 they aren’t. From my perspective the problem isn’t these children, it’s their parents not supervising them. So how do we as a community deal with this without expelling these families? They are falling back on free range credo and a belief natural consequences are the only form of discipline their kids need…and I will ignore any comments about hitting children.

  51. Donna May 21, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Emily – Schools here are treated as public areas outside of school hours too, however, that doesn’t mean that they HAVE to be. Further, what are school hours? Only those hours that students are in class? Hours during before and after school care? Hours that teachers are there working? Many ways to define “school hours.”

    I agree that the set-up is obnoxious in today’s world in that school starts so late, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect parents to make other arrangements for childcare for their elementary school age children other than hanging out on the playground between when mom needs to go to work and when school starts. IF (and I don’t know that is what is happening here which is why Lenore suggested the writer find out the reason for the new rule) that is what is happening, I can see the school wanting it stopped.

    However, the notion of getting to school well before school starts in order to play is odd to me. School started at 9am when I was a kid. Kids didn’t go to the playground before school. Maybe a quick slide or spin around the merry-go-round on the way in, but not full-scale playtime. You got to school when school was about to start, not a substantial time earlier. Same with my kid’s school today (granted it starts at 7:40 so playtime would be really early). In both instances, there was/is a substantial group of kids who play AFTER school, but none before.

  52. BL May 21, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    “It is school property that the school graciously allows the public to use outside of school hours but need not.”

    I have no doubt that is legally true. But is that just another situation where (as Dickens said) the law is an ass?

    I think back to my elementary school. which was right next to my house (behind the back yard). The grounds were in constant use by children and adults and nobody said boo. Children played on the playground equipment (mostly solid iron; you would have needed an earthmover to “vandalize” any of it), played baseball or kickball or Red Rover, or just generally ran around since it was a big wide-open space and our lawns were small.

    Some of the adults used the grounds (on off hours) for flying radio-controlled airplanes and hitting golf balls. One neighbor built a go-kart he mostly ran in the school parking lot (it wasn’t street-legal), gave us rides or let us ride it ourselves (the first motorized vehicle I ever drove).

    I’m probably forgetting a lot of uses. It’s been a while.

    One family of idiots DID try to sue the school once when their son was injured. The kid hit a baseball on top of the school (it was a one-story school with a flat roof), tried climbing up a stepladder but found it too short, so he pulled various items out of his garage, stacked them, put the ladder on top and managed to climb to the roof.

    After finding his baseball, he decided it would be easier to jump down than climb, and he landed hard enough to break his ankle.

    So his parents tried to sue the school. They were, as the saying goes, “laughed out of court”. I think even the lawyer they hired tried very hard to talk them out of it. I remember my parents and some other adult neighbors having a good chuckle about how foolish they were.

    No restrictions on the use of school grounds resulted. We would have been scandalized at the idea that our neighborhood school grounds were off-limits.

  53. derfel cadarn May 21, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    I must question the concept that the administration is well meaning. You will find that 99% of the time it is intolerance not good intent or policy that is the driving force in these issues.

  54. Donna May 21, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    BL –

    A couple of the schools in our district do have playgrounds always closed to the public. The schools don’t want to have to clean up gang signs, crack pipes, drugs and condoms every morning. Schools exist outside of middle class America.

    Our school playground is open during off-hours, however, school hours are considered 7am – 6pm. It covers a period before class starts and the entirety of the after school program. So “off hours” can be defined differently by different schools depending on circumstances.

    However, some parents approached the school nicely and complained about their kids not being able to use the playground immediately after school. The school listened to the complaints and a compromise was struck. The school is still closed to the general public from 7am – 6pm, but students (and their families) can use the playground after school unless the after school program is using it AND the after school program will delay going out onto the playground as opposed to using it immediately after school. The students now have a 30-60 minute window for free play on the playground after school. Is it perfectly catered to everyone’s individual needs? No, but nothing in life is. It does strike a balance between students wanting to play and the after school teachers needing to keep track of their charges without 30 extra kids on the playground.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that schools should be closed to the public. What some of us are saying is that there are perfectly legitimate reasons why a school may choose to close its playground completely or during certain times. The writer should figure out WHY the school set the rule before she gets her knickers in a twist. It may have a perfectly legitimate purpose or it may be something that can be worked out if both parties will try rather than just sitting around being offended.

  55. stacey May 21, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Hmmm… when we walked to elementary school, we always got there early. We had to line up outside the school, by class, at the doors that were nearest our classrooms. The “Safety Monitors” also known as the “big kids”, the 6th graders, were in charge of us. They lined us up, kept us quiet and brought us to our classrooms. If it was raining we could gather under the overhang that was out front. Some of the 6th graders also served as the crossing guards on the street crossing nearest the school and controlled the traffic into the school parking lot so the “little kids” could cross. Now 6th graders are incompetent little oafs, I guess. We generally played in our own area and had no need to go to the school to use a park, but we frequently cut through the schoolyard on the way to our fav candy store or pizza place. It’s amazing what kids are no longer capable of these days.

  56. Warren May 21, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Wow, listen to all of you. Completely over analysed, over regulating, over organized and completely insane.

    For one, I have never seen a public playground or park with hours of operation. Yes bigger national and provincial parks do, but only so they can collect permit and parking fees.

    And if you are going to argue that the property of the school is private and only for their use, then you are part of the problem tearing communities apart.

    And yes Emily, if a school staffer won’t listen, then they will be told “Sucks to be you.”

    Emily, do not try to pick apart my methods, as you would not stand a chance in my world. Being nice works but you have to be willing to not be nice, and you don’t have that in you.

  57. anonymous this time May 21, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    What the what? No kids ever want to get to school early?

    I have four kids. One of them doesn’t really want to go to school at all, at any hour.

    The other three LOVE to get to school early! The earlier the better! They are ALL ABOUT it. They want to play! There are three parks on the way to school they could play in, but not ones with those wonderful expanses of concrete (to them they are wonderful, I guess). And there’s something about being there as the other kids arrive, and greeting them, folding them into games, activities, etc.

    So these three feel anxious if they CAN’T go to school early! They are often 45 minutes in advance of the bell. These are not “neglected” kids with “lazy parents” who can’t be bothered to find child care. These are responsible kids who, for their own reasons, want to hang around as the “first ones” at school. They haven’t asked any adult for anything, and they’ve been doing it for years.

    And I’ll just say that I, as an adult well into my fifth decade, go out and do things on my own, without a “buddy,” and if I get injured enough to need assistance, well, I expect to prevail on someone heretofore unknown to me, at least to use their phone to call someone known to me to come get me.

    Are we really imagining that schools have to be supervising children on a playground? Schools are institutions of learning, I thought, not supervision. In fact, I think children’s play is overly supervised as it is. If kids are fighting over a swing, or push each other around, they don’t actually need an adult to come rushing in and mediate every time. Kids learn to address conflict by engaging in conflict, mediation, and resolution on their own. The best thing we can do for them is model conflict resolution, not insist they never engage in conflict! Conflict is an indispensable part of children’s play that has been sanitized right out of there, or driven so far underground that it’s become pathologized. Let the kids play.

  58. Sharon Davids May 21, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    My daughters elementary school had a crazy rule that kids were supposed to go home and then come back to play in the playground. Usually kids who could walk just stayed and played with the day care kids. My daughter, last year, was one of the safety patrols watched a kindergartener whose older brother was supposed to watch her but usually did not.

    Another fifth grader last year “lost” her fourth grade brother between home and school. She asked the day care if she use their phone to call her mom. The mom came home, found her son, and the police were never called.

  59. Emily May 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    @Warren–Did you miss that we agree here? We both live in places where public parks are public, including school playgrounds, and don’t have operating hours. We both feel that kids should be able to play on school playgrounds before and after school without the school making a federal case of it. So, “Sucks to be you” versus “I make the rules for my own kids outside of school time,” seems insignificant……except that some teachers and school administrators dislike kids whose parents are rude to them, regardless of how the kids behave. I had that problem in high school band–my parents weren’t even rude; they just didn’t get involved in a lot of the band parents meetings, fundraisers, etc. I was actively involved in those things (even to the point of attending a ‘students and parents’ meeting alone, when they were telling us about the following year’s trip), but I still got branded as “not a team player” to a certain degree, because my parents weren’t. So, I know that this isn’t exactly the same thing, but I’d think long and hard before being rude to people who are in the same place as any loved ones of mine for 30+ hours per week.

  60. SOA May 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Actually in our area parks and playgrounds DO have operating hours. They almost all close at sunset. Some of them have gates they put up at sundown to close up the park. One time when my boyfriend and I were necking at the park we almost got locked in there overnight because the park ranger was shutting the gate and he saw our car but did not see us. So he yelled out that he is locking the gate if we don’t come out and leave.

  61. Donna May 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    “Are we really imagining that schools have to be supervising children on a playground?”

    Depends. Elementary schools run from ages 4-11 in my area. It is not unreasonable to require the younger kids of that group to be supervised on playgrounds. Heck, even Lenore doesn’t support leaving 4, 5 and 6 year olds alone at parks.

    This writer states that her kids are some of the few who walk, meaning that most of the kids on the playground in the morning are being dropped off early by parents. What ages? What time? A 5 year old dropped off at 8:45 so mom can be at work at 9 is not a problem. A 5 year old dropped off at 7:45 so that mom can be at work at 8 is.

  62. Mrs. H. May 21, 2014 at 6:55 pm #


    Can we stop blaming these things on “insurance regulations”??

    Insurance underwriters are extremely (almost annoyingly) rational, odds-driven individuals. If they charge higher premiums to cover a school with unattended playgrounds, it’s not their individual paranoia and caprice in action; they are responding to real, proven, local civil court realities. Meaning: a school in a town whose court system will award money to a child injured (without a hazardous condition existing) while playing in the schoolyard before school must pay more for insurance because of that jurisdiction’s tendency to pay needless claims.

    This is NOT the insurance company’s fault!!!

    If anyone has ever enjoyed skiing in Vermont, please read the fine print on the back of your latest lift ticket: because state law exempts ski slope owners/operators from liability for our foolish injuries, skiing is cheaper for all. Similarly, kids would be welcome to play everywhere if insurance companies wouldn’t be called upon to pay claims for “five-year-old who fell off the monkey bars” (who could have foreseen???)

    Really, I’m sick of these rules being blamed on insurance companies — blame instead your neighbors on jury duty who decided that SOMEONE with a lot of money had to pay for little Johnny’s injury.

  63. hineata May 21, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Many of our schools have similar rules, though they are often ignored, and, at least at the schools I have been associated with, they are entirely about not cutting into teacher prep time. My girls’ primary school started at 8.55, and no one was supposed to be in the playground before 8.30, though they turned a blind eye generally to the few bus kids (like mine) as long as they behaved and weren’t there much before 8.15.

    Like in the States, some parents do not want to pay pre-school-care costs, so some kids get to schools not much past 7.30, giving them an hour and a half or so of time to wreak havoc before school, time when they are fresh and rearing to go. Playing after school, after a full day of ‘work’, is not in my experience nearly as ‘problematic’ – kids are tired and a lot more relaxed.

    I think, while it’s not terribly enforceable, a rule telling kids not to be there more than half an hour before school starts is a fair one. Whether we’re ‘paid’ to do it or not, no teacher is going to be able to ignore injured kids, and even the ‘good’ kids who just want to be in the class early ‘helping’ you are a bit of a nuisance, as it’s hard to focus with a few primary aged kids standing around talking to you, asking questions etc. Fine after 8.30, (for a 9 a.m. start) but really, stay out of my face before then, pretty please :-).

  64. hineata May 21, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    @SOA – off-topic, but how do you close a beach? A park I can understand, at least with regards to cars, but can’t imagine how a beach could be closed….unless it was pretty darn small.

  65. anonymous this time May 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    Donna, I kind of doubt any 4 or 5 year old’s parents truly believe they are ready to be left on their own at a public park somewhere. So if you put it all together, what I’m saying is that if your kids are at a stage of development where you’d trust them to go to the store without you, or go play at a park without you, then going to school early to “hang around” before school starts, as long as you’re outdoors and not expecting any assistance from the people inside the building shouldn’t be any more of a problem than going to any other park where there aren’t “staff” to supervise.

    What I’ve seen referenced in this thread is that the idea of any child crying, or pushing, or arguing, or fighting over the swings necessitates adult intervention, and I’m saying it ain’t necessarily so. Adults seem to have convinced themselves that kids can’t possibly resolve conflicts on their own, but when I’ve stayed out of it around my house, 98% of the time, they manage it. (And the other 2% is usually because I have reached my limit listening to the discord, screaming, etc, and want things quiet again, so I insist on some kind of resolution.)

    Kids breaking an arm on the playground is pretty darned rare, really. It’s rare when adults are watching, and it’s rare when they are not. I managed to break my wrists falling off of the monkey bars in grade four, and a teacher was supervising us. As far as I know, I was the first in the 100-year history of the school to manage that particular mishap.

    All of these pleas from adults inside the school building before official hours saying, “Stay out of my face” and “I need to do some things to get ready for the day and I don’t want to watch over any kids on the playground” sound to me like an assumption that they are somehow needed. They’re probably not! Even if there are tears! Even if there is screaming! My hope would be that children of a variety of ages (let’s say 7 or 8 through 11 or 12) on an elementary, before-hours school playground would have a pretty broad range of tools to use to navigate challenges and conflicts. Heck, that unsupervised time on the equipment and in the yard might be their richest learning of the day.

  66. SOA May 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Well we are land locked but we have lakes with “Beaches” meaning they bring in sand and make an artificial beach on the lake front. It most definitely gets closed off by several gates and is patrolled.

    I guess for a public beach they can close off the parking lot and then that makes it hard for people to get in there after hours so that is one way to “Close” it.

    But yeah around here it is pretty standard all parks close at dark. Some may not be enforced but many are. That lake with the beach even has some cool camping areas that are locked up and gated after 10 and no one can go in or out after 10 pm.

  67. SOA May 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    Sorry but yes, some parents do leave kids unsupervised that are not ready for it yet. And sometimes it ends tragically. Those are the cases that usually end up on the news. It is naive to think it never happens. We had a case on here the other day of the mom who left the tiny kids in the car on a hot day intentionally while she went to a job interview. Let’s face it. Some parents are lazy or uneducated and make bad decisions. And those are the ones that ruin it for everyone else when rules like this have to be made.

  68. hineata May 22, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    @anonymous this time – actually you are right, 99.9% of the time we adults are not needed. I am impressed that your school had only 1 broken bone issue in 100 years (or was it just that particular type of break?)- we manage several ambulance calls a year for our playground for breaks, though I don’t recall any of those being before school in the last year.

    For me it has nothing to do with whether I’m ‘needed’ or not, it has to do with the fact that kids are noisy by nature, as they should be, kids are also nosy (well, curious to the non-curmudgeons among us! 🙂 ), and some of us old bat teachers need a bit of peace sometimes to do our thinking in. Imagine if every morning a bunch of kids ran through an office environment, or knocked repeatedly on the doors or windows as people were trying to work. Every morning, for an hour. Every day of the year.

    I love working with kids, but to do that work I sometimes need some quiet time in the actual school itself (obviously most your thinking is done at home, but some needs to be done at school). I’m sure they exist, but personally I’ve never been in an office environment when there wasn’t some, and usually a lot, of relatively quiet time during the day. That’s all that I personally want, and I think is behind the rule here – let them run free after school, keep them out of the playground for a reasonable time before school.

    Reasonable, though – I must say, I think not letting them in until school starts is both unrealistic and over the top. Wonder how many kids are late as a result…

    @SOA – very interesting about the beaches. I was thinking only of the sea, had forgotten lakes. We would have difficulty locking up most of our beaches (at least the ones very accessible to the public, and most of the remote ones as well) and I expect in Oz it would be impossible. All those swathes of sand you see as you fly over the Gold Coast – need a holiday, need a holiday :-).

  69. Christina May 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    @Warren – City parks in Chicago have hours of operation.

  70. Warren May 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    We must be extremely lucky. Though most are not lit, most city parks and playgrounds are wide open 24/7. They have no physical way of closing them.

  71. Emily May 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    >>We must be extremely lucky. Though most are not lit, most city parks and playgrounds are wide open 24/7. They have no physical way of closing them.<<

    @Warren–That's how it is in my neck of Ontario too. I really like it, because even as a teenager/young adult, I would sometimes visit the park near the beach at night, sometimes alone, other times with friends. That park has saucer swings for handicapped kids (or for pairs/trios of able-bodied kids to swing together), and one of my favourite things to do there at night, is to lie on the swing, and get it swinging up and down, and look up at the night sky while I'm swinging, and think about life. If the park closed at sundown, then nobody would ever get to experience that.

  72. anonymous this time May 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    “some of us old bat teachers need a bit of peace sometimes to do our thinking in. Imagine if every morning a bunch of kids ran through an office environment, or knocked repeatedly on the doors or windows as people were trying to work. Every morning, for an hour. Every day of the year.”

    Hm. I guess what I’d say to that is: the doors of the school remain locked until “opening time,” whatever that is. And if kids are banging on the windows and doors before that, discipline the kids in a way that calls to their attention your need for peace and space to do your work.

    But I really don’t think this rule came down as an answer to kids banging on doors and windows at school in the morning. I imagine it came down as an answer to teachers and admin figuring that if the kids are on school property, and the adults are in the building, and something goes wrong out there, someone gets hurt, someone starts to cry, someone pushes someone, that it’s JUST NOT OKAY TO IGNORE IT and someone (meaning the teachers) “has to” go out there and sort it.

    I think a simple letter stating that kids are unequivocally ON THEIR OWN to FEND FOR THEMSELVES if they come onto the property earlier than official supervision begins, and they come onto the property at their •own risk* — just as if they went to the beach, the city park, or downtown [city of school’s location]. I heartily object to banning kids from school property during the hour before school starts, and I really can’t believe that the kids are beating down the doors to get in, especially if they’re advised that they will be unable to get assistance or attention that way, and the parents have been advised of this as well, right?

  73. anonymous this time May 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    “Sorry but yes, some parents do leave kids unsupervised that are not ready for it yet. And sometimes it ends tragically. Those are the cases that usually end up on the news. It is naive to think it never happens. We had a case on here the other day of the mom who left the tiny kids in the car on a hot day intentionally while she went to a job interview. Let’s face it. Some parents are lazy or uneducated and make bad decisions. And those are the ones that ruin it for everyone else when rules like this have to be made.”

    Kids getting to school early and playing on the playground has ended tragically? I have a hard time believing that. Leaving kids in a hot car and kids playing on a playground, even in the pouring rain, are not the same thing!

    Even if a kid is getting dropped off in the dark of pre-dawn, and sits on the playground alone for all that time until a few other mates show up and join him, if he’s nourished, if he’s not coming to any frank harm, then what on earth is the issue? The whole point of this online gathering space, I thought, was to CHALLENGE the idea that kids are at “terrible risk” when they are left alone, ESPECIALLY at playgrounds! How is a parent who lets their kid do something on their own ruining anything for anyone?

    The “ruiners” are the “authorities” who decide it’s “inappropriate” and then insist that “rules have to be made” to prevent kids from ever being on their own. Frankly, I don’t care if a kid comes to school early if they don’t damage school property or make a nuisance of themselves to the people in the building. Even if they are lonely. Even if they don’t want to share the swings.

    I think this whole story in the OP is about adults who fret over the idea of kids being allowed to play unsupervised, ever, and especially at something called a “school” where apparently, the expectation is that once kids set foot on the grounds, teachers are completely responsible for every decision a child makes on the playground equipment, and therefore must direct and limit their play.

    What I’m trying to get across is that KIDS DON’T NEED AS MUCH SUPERVISION AS MOST ADULTS BELIEVE. And I find this whole drama about kids getting to school “too early” is revealing this faulty belief.

  74. SOA May 22, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    The 8-11 year olds would be great on their own at the playground for a bit before school. But the 4-6 year olds might not be. But if one parent sends a kid too young and irresponsible out there and they do stuff like someone else mentioned like damaging stuff then it ruins it for everyone else. Because schools love making blanket policies instead of just punishing one individual family. Just the truth of that.

  75. anonymous this time May 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    The person who commented about kids throwing rocks at windows to get attention, and kids damaging other students’ projects outdoors, was referencing a very specific school, very much unlike the school featured in the OP, I’m imagining.

    At all the public elementary schools I’ve ever encountered, there is a brick / concrete building, a combination of paved areas and grassy areas, and some kind of manufactured playground equipment. As far as I’ve seen, there isn’t much kids could break outside of a public elementary school. And if they throw rocks at the windows, well, by all means, call the freaking police! That’s vandalism, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is!

    All of this stuff about “8-11 year olds” versus “4 to 6 year olds” just sounds like smoke and mirrors to me. Leave it to parents to decide what their kids are capable of and at what ages. Period.

  76. Emily May 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    >>Hm. I guess what I’d say to that is: the doors of the school remain locked until “opening time,” whatever that is. And if kids are banging on the windows and doors before that, discipline the kids in a way that calls to their attention your need for peace and space to do your work.<<

    I think the problem with that is that some of the kids might take the rule TOO literally, and not bang/call for help when there's blood, a broken bone, or a bullying situation involved. My brother was on the wrong end of a situation like that once–he was on a school bus back from a field trip to the Ontario Science Centre, and some of the other kids in his class started choking him by the strings of his hoodie. The teachers didn't notice, and none of the other kids intervened, because there was a hard-and-fast RULE that everyone had to stay seated on the bus. The only reason why my brother is still alive now, is because his hoodie strings broke, so he didn't suffocate. Anyway, my point is, blanket rules lead to blind obedience, which can lead to disaster……of course, saying "Nobody on the playground before 9 a.m." is also a blanket rule, which has caused all this mess of drop-off windows and traffic jams and parents having trouble getting to work on time, so that's why I think the best solution would be for the schools to get parent volunteers to help on the playground like they did when I was a kid, but with the layers of background checks that so many schools require now, and the fact that most families need two incomes to make ends meet, it might not be possible.

  77. Amanda Matthews May 22, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    How they “close” beaches and parks is, after closing time, the cops drive around or through them (depending on the layout) every so often and tell anyone in there that it is closed and they have to leave.

    Anyway. In my opinion if a kid is not yet able to take care of themselves enough to play at a playground for a few minutes before school, if they need constant supervision because of some kind of developmental delay, if they are going to start crying the minute mom is out of sight… then they shouldn’t be at school without an aide. A teacher does not have the time to take care of 30 such children after 9:00 any more than they do before it. Though a teacher may be *nearby*, for most of the day students are pretty much unsupervised.

    The way I see it, any kid developmentally able to be in school is developmentally able to play on the playground for awhile before school starts.

    If your state/province/whatever requires 4 year olds to be enrolled in school, THAT is the problem, not 4 year olds being left on the playground 30 minutes before school starts.

  78. derfel cadarn May 23, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Are those targets on the wall ?!!! Oh the humanity !

  79. E May 23, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Sometimes I wonder if the people who think this kind of thing is terrible or unnecessary or unfair have just not really had the same experiences I have in regard to what schools/principals/teachers deal with. Maybe you haven’t spent as much time in that setting as I have.

    Parents complain about EVERYTHING. Parents threaten schools and teachers. I’m with the poster that talked about the legal system over insurance liability.

    Oh BTW, in the “grandpa took the wrong kid home” story? The school superintendent resigned. She felt it would quiet the rage on that (no harm done) incident and allow the school/system to get back to regular business.

    I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen a parent challenge the school when their child was accused of cheating on a final exam (HS) with a group of kids because they couldn’t PROVE it. They thought SO LITTLE of the teacher’s ability to observe her own classroom that she resorted to saying “prove it”. They offered the accused to retake the exam. My thought was if the kid made a B on his exam w/o cheating, he could do so again right? Nope. She threatened them (school board, news, etc) because they didn’t have proof.

    If a kid got hurt (however that parent defines it), and told the school that they expected supervision on the school grounds before school or….. well, isn’t it just easier to close the playground in the morning and let the teachers prepare for school as expected?

    And to whoever said that 99% of administrators don’t give a rip and are simply intolerant? What kind of cynical viewpoint is that? I’ve got 3 educators in my family. To suggest that they (and their peers/friends) don’t care about kids and do stuff because they are “intolerant”? It’s insulting. Is it only educators that make decisions in that manner? Or do we say the same about every occupation. It’s SO insulting.

  80. SOA May 23, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Anonymous: You are ignoring the fact that some parents do decide what their kids are capable of and they do so wrongly. Then you get like that poster described with kids pissing on clean laundry hanging out to dry and throwing rocks at windows and destroying school projects. So then what? Well then the school rather than single out a single family and risk being called racist or prejudiced or classist-they make a blanket policy.

    At least in my experience a lot of school and offices and businesses-love their blanket policies. Because they avoid having to confront one particular offender and risk getting into with them and just inconvenience everyone.

  81. SOA May 23, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Here is a good blanket policy I encountered. At a daycare I worked at we had these giant strollers that could fit like 8 kids at once in it. At the end of the day the teachers would often clean up the room like they have to and then load the kids in the buggy. Then they would ride them around the halls till the parents picked them up. That kept the room from getting messed up again and the kids enjoyed the rides.

    Well one or two workers kept driving and banging into the walls with the buggy. So instead of just looking at the security cameras and finding out who was ramming them into the walls, they just said “No more buggy rides inside”. So the kids were sad they did not get to buggy ride anymore and it kept the teachers from getting the room cleaned up on closing time and had to stay after to clean.

    I know I was able to drive the buggy without banging the wall. But does not matter. One person ruins it for everyone else.

    And before someone says why not ride them outside, at the end of the day when parents are picking up you can’t be walking around outside because the parents were not keen on chasing you down to get their child. They wanted you easy to find in the building.

    Again it is naive to think every parent always 100% makes the right decisions about what their kid can and cannot handle. Sometimes they just don’t care. Sometimes the parent just wants to be able to get to work on time and decides to make it someone else’s problem. Just the reality of the situation.

    To me the best policy is let parent volunteers take turns out there “supervising” and that way every one wins.

  82. E May 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    My suggestion is to just relax and enjoy your toddler. What works and makes sense to you (and your parenting mindset) seems to be coming naturally. Every kid is different and their strengths/weaknesses are different. You know better what works for your kids and your household, so I wouldn’t get caught up in making sure your child is doing things that are on lists or whatever.

    Just because someone says “my X year old played on the playground while I…” doesn’t mean that works for every playground (busy streets, older kid equipment, bodies of water) or every kid. It’s both okay to watch your kid play from a distance or play WITH them.


  83. E May 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Oops, wrong thread!

  84. JP Merzetti May 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    A big part of the problem is that so few walk to school.
    A schoolyard just isn’t looked at so much anymore as an accessable place for kids to be, unsupervised.

    But here’s what I don’t get: any kid dropped off before school….say, at 8:45am? – where do they go? What do they do when the family car drives away?

    I think you’d have an easier time fighting these kinds of policy changes if more parents were involved, but unfortunately too few allow their kids access to an unsupervised schoolyard anyhow.

  85. Amanda Matthews May 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Might as well stop arresting any adults… just put everyone in prison because if you single out the criminals you could be called racist.

  86. Amanda Matthews May 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I wonder how they would deal with kids that don’t attend the school playing there before 9…