Schools generally tend to be safe places for children to positively interact with other kids and expand their knowledge of the world around them. However, there can be some risks in a school environment that, if not properly managed, can cause serious physical or emotional harm to schoolchildren. In this article, we discuss some of the leading causes of harm in schools and how they can potentially be mitigated.
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Many adults in the United States likely have fond memories of their childhood playground. The school playground is one of the best places at school to make new friends, explore obstacle courses, and burn off some energy. Unfortunately, the playground can also have its fair share of hazards, particularly if the equipment is not maintained or monitored properly. Unsafe equipment may cause a child to slip, slide, or fall while playing. In many cases, children can fall several feet if they were climbing or playing on a multi-tier structure.
Most playground accidents result in minor cuts, scrapes, or bruises, but a serious accident can cause:
- Broken bones
- Head, neck, or spinal injuries
- Internal injuries
When a playground accident is directly caused by negligence, the victim’s family may be able to recover some of the resulting damages in a personal injury or premises liability lawsuit. For example, if deteriorating equipment or a complete lack of supervision lead to a child’s injury, the school or employees may be at least partially responsible for the incident.
Injuries While Playing Sports
Sports and recreational activities are capable of causing serious injuries if children exceed their limits or are subject to unsafe coaching methods. According to data gathered by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, sports injuries are the second leading causes of emergency room visits for children and the second leading cause of school-related injuries. An estimated three million children visit emergency rooms for sports-related injuries and another five million are seen by a sports medicine clinic or primary doctor.
Some degree of physical activity is ideal in children to help them stay healthy and active. However, when training or competitions become too excessive or intense over a short time period, tissue breakdown or injuries can occur. Overuse injuries are frequently caused by intense or repetitive training. Injuries are frequently preventable by effective coaching, thorough oversight of training methods, and avoidance of experimental training strategies or machines. Obvious or nagging injuries should be promptly addressed by a trained medical specialist.
Unsafe School Facilities
Schools are legally required to provide reasonably safe spaces for schoolchildren, teachers, and staff members. A school must post adequate warnings of known dangers, repair known hazards as quickly and efficiently as possible, and actively search for unsafe conditions that could cause harm. Failure on the school’s part to do so can result in a range of injuries, from slip and fall accidents to toxic chemical exposure. If a school’s policies or the actions of employees put people in danger, injury victims may be able to file a premises liability claim against the responsible party.
No one expects the local school cafeteria to serve the types of meals you’d find at a Michelin Star restaurant. However, it’s reasonable to expect that your child’s meals are nutritious and safe for them to eat. In some cases, unfortunately, that may not be the case. Food that is stored at unsafe temperatures, contaminated by bugs or rodents, cooked improperly, or served on dirty plates can cause serious illnesses.
Unsafe kitchens and improperly prepared food can cause a range of foodborne illnesses, including food poisoning. Food poisoning can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although most cases clear up without intervention, bad bouts of food poisoning can require hospitalization. This type of illness can be particularly dangerous for young children, as they may be unable to stay hydrated due to constant vomiting or diarrhea.
To reduce the risk of food poisoning impacting your child, it’s important to have an idea of what your child is eating at lunchtime. Stay aware of any reported health violations impacting your child’s school and, when in doubt, prepare lunches at home when possible.
Bullying is a prevalent form of violence in school settings. The victims of bullying at school may be subjected to physical or emotional abuse, both of which can have serious consequences for the victim and their family. Some of the most common types of bullying encountered in schools include:
- Physical bullying: When someone is a victim of physical bullying, the aggressor may hit, kick, trip, pinch, push, or damage the victim’s property. Physical bullying can cause both long- and short-term harm.
- Social bullying: This type of abuse is more difficult to recognize and is frequently carried out behind the victim’s back. Social bullying is meant to humiliate the victim or cause irreparable harm to their reputation. Someone that engages in social bullying may spread rumors, play cruel jokes, mimic the victim, or encourage other people to exclude the victim from activities.
- Verbal bullying: This type of abuse does not include physical violence. Instead, the aggressor may call the victim names, use insults, or attempt to abuse them through homophobic, racist, or cruel comments.
- Cyber bullying: Many forms of bullying have been around since the earliest human civilizations. Cyber bullying, however, is a fairly recent phenomenon corresponding with the rise of technology. This form of bullying became particularly prevalent in the mid-2000s, as smartphones became a must-have accessory for people across the world. Cyber bullying can include hurtful text messages or emails, unsavory images sent online, exclusion of others in social events, the spreading of rumors, or stealing someone else’s login information.
Preventing bullying can be challenging for parents, since you can’t be with your child at school to see precisely what they go through on any given day. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, appearance, or moods, try to connect with them to find out what is wrong and how you can help.
Preventing Injuries in Schools
Your child’s school should be a safe space for them to learn and forge lasting connections with their peers. They should not feel as though their physical or mental wellbeing are jeopardized by unsafe conditions. If you feel as though your child is at risk of harm, whether from bullying or an unsafe playground, it’s essential to take action promptly to prevent injuries and keep your kid safe.