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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2010 1:29 PM. The previous post in this blog was Safe. The next post in this blog is Headlining the "green" puppet show. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, April 22, 2010

School's over for the day, kids. Now get out.

A concerned reader writes:

I just had an interesting (and upsetting) conversation with the secretary at ACCESS school on the Sabin school campus, and subsequently composed a letter which my friend thought, since you're a neighborhood guy, you might also be interested in seeing. Without further ado:

I'm a Portland Public Schools parent and, as other parents are, I have been allowing my kids to stay on the playground for a little while with friends after school, to play. The school is about eight blocks from my home, in a safe neighborhood -- most neighborhood parents have their children walk to school -- and of course, many people use the field and playground during off-hours.

My oldest child, 12½, recently completed CPR training, and her friends are between 12 and 14... all good kids with involved parents, about whom I have no concerns in terms of getting into trouble. My son likes to play ball and have races with his friends in the field.

However, today I received a phone call from the school office saying that children are not allowed to play on the playground after school, and that they are calling all the parents to let them know. I asked her if that was a Portland Public Schools policy or just our school's policy, and at first she said she could only answer for our school, but later said it is a PPS policy that applies to all schools.

My question is, is this a common policy nationwide? Is it a new policy? Is it something that I, as a parent, should already have been aware of? The secretary really made me feel like I was a stupid, terrible parent for letting my children play unsupervised on the playground, and I realize that we live in a culture of protection, but at 12 and 13 years old a child is legally capable not only of supervising themselves, but of supervising younger children, so I am not understanding the logic behind not allowing children to play on the playground after school hours, and I am curious whether this is a pervasive or common policy, as it is new to me. The playground has baseball diamonds, a large field for running, as well as swings and a basketball court. I have often seen young teenagers skateboarding or playing ball there during off-hours.

The secretary told me that they can go to a public park, but I was under the impression that the playground is also a public park. If the playground is a public park, is this policy even legal? It seems to do children more harm than good, as it offers them one less option for healthy, outdoor, non-troublemaking fun. I also wonder if that policy means that children will not be allowed to use the playground during the summer.

Clearly, as would any parent, I want to know if my children are causing problems. I rely on the communication network of my fellow parents, as well as the tattletale instinct of other kids, to inform me if this were the case. My children have a cell phone with them. I feel that I am taking a reasonable balance between teaching them caution and responsibility. The idea that children of an age to legally supervise themselves and other children may not play on the public, publicly funded playground after school seems contrary to the statement that it's for safety reasons.

Comments (22)

Get off of my lawn!

Oh, yeah, and while you weren't looking? They changed the underlying zoning from OS (Open Space) to CWS (Condo Weasel Special)and will be giving it away for $1.

Time for turnover on these school boards.

Does this mean that PPS playgrounds will start serving beer after school? Seems like the next logical step.

Sounds like the property has already been sold to private owners and just they haven't told us yet..."City that Works"

Ridiculous. My elementary school, in PPS, was the focal point for after school play in the neighborhood. It was a good thing. Even when kids misbehaved, I don't think the school thought about trying to keep kids off the school grounds - it just would not have been right. These are public places - we should be increasing access to them, not decreasing it. I'd love to see schools open up their gyms after school for kids (and adults) to excercise and play basketball, etc. Not gonna happen, though.

I see that common sense died recently. Did the big O publish the obit. I must have missed it.

Good comments on school playgrounds. I am guessing state law, if it hasn't been changed, says kids are under the supervision of the school until they get home on their own property. If this is still the case then the school is obligated to supervise students who stay after on the playground. So a school might ask students to return home first, then return to the playground and it would then be o.k. for them to play. Sounds kind of rediculous, but schools have a lot of parents who are all over them if they make a mistake and they try to follow the law.

Beyond insane. Where would such a directive come from? Whose name is behind such an idea?

PPS is rocking a lot of boats when it comes to the parks connected to their schools. They have unilaterally (with the help of Nick Fish) excluded the entire neighborhood out of the Sunnyside park connected to the Sunnyside Environmental School from 9am-3:30pm everyday. The neighborhood is in an uproar over this, as it was a federal grant that rehabilitated the playground to begin with. Nick Fish and Super Carol avoided the famous "public process" and signed an agreement giving the school exclusive use of the playground. Seems like this behavior is par for the course these days.

David: Nah, they didn't run an obit. They just pressed an editorial about how Portlanders are too stupid to know what common sense is and how common sense dug its own grave by not listening to the O's ed board.

Behind every asinine policy like this lurks a lawsuit or the threat of one. Some kid probably got hurt on school grounds after hours and a parent's crafty lawyer found a way to sue PPS for damages for it.

It is a stupid and unfair policy -- we paid for the school, we and our kids should be able to use it -- and it's not going to stop me from taking my toddlers down to play at the local elementary school on evenings and weekends. But you can't really blame PPS for covering its a**.

It's my policy that I don't accept a**-covering as the justification for anybody else's policy.


Wrong forum for lawyer-bashing.

(1) The epidemic of personal injury lawsuits is a myth. The reality is that there are fewer lawsuits, fewer trials, and lower payouts than there were, for example, in the 1980s.

(2) Public bodies in general have a variety of substantive and procedural protections available to them, all derivative of the state's sovereign immunity. See damage caps, tort claim requirements, etc.

(3) Oregon provides tort immunity to the owners (including public bodies) of land which is made gratuitously available for recreational use. See ORS 105.672 et seq. This statute gets tested in the appellate courts frequently, and the protections are always found to be expansive.

Matt (who fancies himself a crafty lawyer)

I think it has to do with the kids that go to the particular school not hanging around on the playground afterwards unless they have a supervising adult. Alameda always had this rule, and for young children (let's just say, under 10) there's some logic to it. I think that somewhere there is a policy (City? PPS?)saying that during school hours, the playgrounds attached to the schools are not open to the general public, but the rest of the time they are. We live near Sabin, and my kids have always used it after hours and weekends, as have many other neighborhood and non-neighborhood folk. The school secretary is just living inside the usual PPS "box", unable to climb out....

Sure, let's blame the school secretary. Not. Let's hold those we've elected responsible for sane and sustainable management of our collective public assets, especially schools and parks!

Thank you so much for posting this, Jack! While I am not in favor of small children being at any playground unsupervised, the age at which they are legally allowed to supervise themselves, and children younger than themselves, should also apply to any supervision requirements regarding all public access to open space.

One thing to keep in mind is that there have been no answers, yet, to the questions posed in my letter. I don't actually know whose directive this is, or even whether it truly exists. It could be just so much hot air, and until I hear back from the principal or school district, I honestly don't know if this "kids-off-the-playground" policy even exists.

I will let you know what I find out.

"...the age at which they are legally allowed to supervise themselves, ..."

And that age would be?
...said who?

Is that age determined by:
A- the State?
B- the County?
C- the municipality?

I ask in all seriousness, since I called the police (non-emergency number) to find out if I would get in trouble if I left my son at home. The officer said there was not a hard and fast age, and that had to be reasonable but it was up to the parent.

Obviously, 12 or 13 is "old enough" to self supervise, and 2 or 3 is "not old enough". Anybody have any answers?

The crime of child neglect in the second degree under Oregon law ORS 163.545 is committed when a person with custody or control of a child under 10 negligently leaves a child unattended in or at any place for such period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of the child.

I too am a PPS parent and am disturbed to hear playgrounds are off limits. That's preposterous and offensive.

It's about the school controlling the behavior of it's students by saying they can't be "on campus" outside of the school day. I don't agree with it and I'm not sure of the origin of the policy or practice.

There are so many reasons to be unhappy with PPS. Throw this one on the pile.

God forbid that kids take steps towards learning how to be strong, independent, and self-reliant by interacting with friends and acquaintances outdoors, actively, in an environment designed for their use. If this were allowed how could the teachers, administrators, educational gurus and the political class possibly get sufficient credit for all the good that they do?

FYI, in my neck of the woods back east, there are restrictions on non-school use of attached playgrounds during school hours, but no restrictions past closing. But I fear for my children since there is an awful lot of Portland envy lurking about.

In Oregon, 12 years old is the age at which children may supervise children younger than themselves. 10 is the age at which they may be left alone under reasonable circumstances. Child neglect can still apply at any age up to 18, but that is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Stratton, please tell us where you are getting your info. It is not the Oregon criminal code regarding child neglect. That applies to kids under 16 (child neg 1) and kids under 10 (child neg 2).


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