As the weather turns nicer and kids are filling up the playgrounds, the schoolyards, and anywhere there’s a jungle gym, schools and other places must keep their equipment in a reasonably safe condition. These facilities are all responsible for ensuring that certain minimum safety guidelines are followed.
Specifically, “a school district owes a duty to its students to exercise the same degree of care as would a parent of ordinary prudence under similar circumstances.”
Tens of thousands of children are injured in the US every year in school-related accidents, many of which are avoidable. In those cases, it’s usually due to poor maintenance or poor oversight and judgement by school staff or others.
Schools should be inspecting their premises on a regular basis to make sure everything is in good working order. When children are in school their parents can't watch over them, and so the school must fill that role.
Things to look for in the equipment or playground area include broken, damaged or worn-out equipment; slipping and tripping hazards; sharp edges; and debris and a general lack of upkeep in the playground area.
Schools must also provide proper supervision during scheduled gym class and play time, as well as sports and other extracurricular activities, both outdoors and indoors.
They should also be conducting ongoing, periodic training of the staff, reminding them to be on the lookout for dangerous conditions and hazardous materials and to warn students of any such conditions—wet floor, tripping hazards, exposed wiring, issues in the chemistry lab, etc.
Especially in elementary school, precautions need to be taken so that all chemicals—whether cleaning products, rubber cement, or others—are safely locked away.
Ventilation can also be an issue, especially in older schools that have not updated their HVAC system. An old school may also contain lead paint, asbestos, and possibly mold and other airborne threats.
Fire exits should not be blocked and should be properly maintained. The school should also have sufficient fire extinguishers and conduct periodic evacuation drills throughout the year.
An emergency plan for active shooter situations is also necessary, and should be practiced periodically. There are a number of experts available to teach the administration, faculty, and students what to do in such an emergency.
As a parent, if you’ve encountered any unsafe conditions at your child’s school, take photos and make a written report requesting items to be repaired. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
For any questions or assistance, contact us.