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.