Organizers at a church in Neath, Wales don’t mind rules requiring the donkey-riding Mary in a childrens’ Nativity play to be wearing a crash helmet, or as the case may be “riding hat.” They say the eight-year-old’s costuming can readily be arranged to conceal the anachronistic headgear during the Christmas procession. No word on whether, as at petting zoos, participants coming in contact with the animal will need to apply hand sanitizer before proceeding. Critics term the rule “‘elf – ‘n’ – safety.” [BBC, Telegraph]
You might think this was a parody, but apparently not. The federal government has ordered the destruction of a series of fifteen postage stamps intended to get kids to be more active after sports safety advocates said three of the stamps raised safety concerns, including illustrations depicting kids “skateboarding without kneepads, and doing a headstand without a helmet.” [Postal News]
My own view is that if you’re learning proper skateboarding technique off a postage stamp, you’re doing it wrong. (& Scott Shackford, Reason)
Reactions via Twitter: “One can understand the recall after the disastrous spate of upside-down plane crashes in 1918.” [@tedfrank] “I wonder how they missed the one with explosives on it” [@Bert_Huggins] “USPS thinks kids know what stamps are.” [@UlyssesHL]
“Two federal government agencies will withdraw their longstanding claims that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of a head injury by 85%. The decision comes in response to a petition the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) filed under the federal Data Quality Act.” [Jim Titus, Greater Greater Washington; earlier on mandatory helmet-use laws here and here]
I’m a participant in an online forum put on by Common Good this week about the age of zero tolerance for aspirin pills, bans on games of “tag,” and broken-thermometer lockdowns. From their description:
We entrust our children to teachers and principals with the expectation that they will be both educated and protected from harm. When, inevitably, incidents happen — especially when those incidents are tragic and well-publicized — communities often press for stricter rules and procedures. School administrations have reacted to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School with extreme protectiveness; one school suspended a six-year-old for “pointing his finger like a gun and saying ‘pow,’” while another suspended two boys for playing cops and robbers.
Also featured: Lenore Skenazy, Frederick Hess, Megan Rosker, and Nancy McDermott. From my contribution:
When they “err on the side of safety” in absurd ways, schools reflect trends in the wider society. … Already, by ten years ago, British commentator Jenny Cunningham could write that “A significant body of research evidence now indicates that there has been a drastic decline in children’s outdoor activity and unsupervised play. For example, it has been calculated that the free play range of children — the radius around the home to which children can roam alone — has, for nine-year-olds in the UK, shrunk to a ninth of what it was in 1970. Perhaps most damaging is that a climate has been created in which all unsupervised play is regarded as high risk, and parents or teachers who allow it are seen as irresponsible.” Cunningham notes that families now tend to see the risks of being hit by traffic or (far less likely) abducted by strangers as ruling out outdoor play. “Yet, despite the increasing levels of worry, in reality children have never been safer.” Sound familiar?
I go on to mention CPSIA, the wildly overreaching 2008 law regulating children’s products in the name of safety, and the proliferation of requirements that innocuous everyday chemicals be accompanied by material-safety-sheet paperwork. My conclusion: “If these are the trends in the outside society, how likely is it that schools will be able to resist?” (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
Ira Stoll catches the New York Times being tendentious again [SmarterTimes]:
…one reason that Texas is at or near the top of the nation in terms of workplace fatalities is that it is at or near the top of the nation in terms of the number of workers and how many hours they work. If you adjust for that, and take the rate of workplace fatalities — that is, the number of fatalities from workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time workers, Texas isn’t worst in the nation, but somewhere in the middle…
Why they might not work to the overall benefit of child safety [Adam Sandberg, CEI “Open Market”]
Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids is the guest essayist at Cato Unbound. Excerpt:
..any time a politician, principal, or bureaucrat wants to score points, he or she lets us know that kids are even more precious—and endangered—than we thought….
How far has society gone in dreaming up new dangers to protect our children from? Until you take a step back and look at all the new laws and regulations, you probably have no idea….
Over the summer, according to the Manchester, Connnecticut Patch, a local mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.” This was a walk of half a mile….
…in the “real world,” stranger abductions are so rare that if for some reason you actually WANTED your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, do you know how long you’d have to keep your child outside, unattended, so that statistically the abduction would be likely to happen?
The answer is about 750,000 years, according to author Warwick Cairns. And after the first 100,000 years or so, your kid isn’t even cute anymore. …
At the same time, there is a parallel process going on the regulatory world, with bureaucrats looking ever more intently for ever less likely dangers, on the grounds that kids can never be safe enough. This explains things like the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall of a line of children’s jackets last year because the elastic waistbands had toggles on it “that could become snagged or caught in small spaces or doorways, which poses an entrapment hazard to children.”
Yes, it’s true: Those toggles could snag. Does that make them inherently more dangerous than, say, pigtails that could get caught in a door, or a charm bracelet that could get snagged on an electric window? I’m just free-associating products and problems here, because that’s what it feels like the CPSC does, too.
In the discussion, Skenazy is joined by Anthony Green, James A. Swartz and Joel Best.