Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Letter to the School Board

My son attends the AcTal program at Greystone (grade 7), and they are off on a curling field trip next week. We have been informed that the kids are going to be required to wear helmets for this, and that this requirement is a school board policy.

My wife and I are at a loss on this. Our son is going to be 13 in a month, and, while he has only curled once before, he has managed to play outside in the schoolyard all winter long without once falling and hitting his head (I note that this is not meant to be taken facetiously: walking on school fields before the recent snow has been monumentally treacherous this winter, due to all the ice). We also note that one of his classmates is an experienced curler and will also be required to wear a helmet.

We are raising a generation of (to use the phrase so recently picked up by a new TV program) Bubble Wrap Kids. I see nothing wrong with setting the rules and doing so firmly, letting the kids know that with the first sign of roughhousing, on the ice or even off, and they get to sit out the remainder of the field trip. But, unless there has been a rash of severe injuries involving this sport, a number that shows some sort of statistical significance, then we don't see how this makes any sense. And here let me add that a study by Monash University finds that most curling injuries involve shoulder, knee, and back pain, which comes as no surprise.

It is right and proper that we should teach our children to be safe, and I believe that the responsibility for this task falls on the shoulders of all caregivers: parents, teachers, other family members, and beyond. But we also need to teach our children that we trust them, especially when they are already under direct supervision. As they get older, children take bigger steps, remove themselves more from our obsessive need to control every little thing they do, and that's a good thing. By insisting they wear helmets for a slow-moving sport, we are showing these children that we do not trust them, nor do we trust the previous lessons involving their safety that were made by their caregivers.

If this sort of decision is made to ensure that the school board and all schools and teachers are not liable for any accident, then by all means send a release form, and we will gladly sign it. If not, then as parents we obviously will have to make our own decision about whether or not he takes part. And that strikes me as ironic, that parents might pull children out of events not because of safety concerns, but because so many of us are too afraid that some nebulous thing might happen.


Derryl Murphy

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