Life is a risk

somersault.jpgAs a parent you like to know that your children are doing their best at school.

What you don’t want to hear is that your child has done something that may get them suspended. So imagine how a Townsville mum felt recently when she found that her daughter was in danger of suspension … for doing a cartwheel in the playground during recess.

According to this story from, Belgian Gardens State School in Queensland, Australia, has banned all forms of gymnastics during breaks, including handstands and somersaults.

Kylie Buschgens was surprised to find that her 10 year old daughter, Cali, had been busted and punished for doing something that most of us would consider healthy.

Apparently two teachers took Cali upstairs and forced her to sit down for the rest of the day and not do anything. Principal Glenn Dickson said gymnastics activities were a “medium risk level 2” that posed a danger to children.

Glenn, let me enlighten you. Crossing the road is a risky activity but we can’t stay on one side of the road for the rest of our lives. Life is all about weighing up the risks and benefits of various activities. Yes, there is a risk that children will hurt themselves during physical activity but there’s an even greater risk that these children you’re trying to protect will die of heart disease in later life if you manage to teach them, through your policies, that physical activity is not worth the risk.

I suppose the question is who is being protected here. Is the school trying to protect the children from harm or are they more interested in saving themselves from any possible damages claim?

And we wonder why Australia has a problem with childhood obesity.

Of course it’s not just an Australian problem.

There was a similar case in the USA in 2004 when an 11 year old girl received a one week suspension for repeatedly refusing to stop cartwheeling on her playground at San Jose-Edison Academy.

Do you think we avoid too much risk? Are we playing it too safe with our children? Have you seen a change in the behaviours that parents or schools allow for their children? Are we creating more problems than we are solving?

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist and blogger from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Amen Rodney. Life is a risk at times and I think we wrap our kids up too much in cotton wool or we allow others to do it for us. Kids need to be kids and let play. Sometimes they might actually fall over and maybe even hurt themselves. I am sure most of us in our 40s remember falling off our bikes and scrapping our knees or falling off the playground. Yes we have to protect our kids, but hey sometimes the risk is worth them to have fun or learn a new skill. After all we still have band aids like we did back in my day!

  • at the kinder i work at we try to let them have those risks. there’s a lot of laws that tell us otherwise though. for example: for our accreditaion we are not allowed to have any hot beverages in the rooms with children. all the children are inner suburb children who spend a good part of their time in cafes and all know how to behave around a hot cup (which we keep out of reach when we aren’t drinking it and usually its not hot enough to burn anyone by the time we actually sit and drink it).
    we also had a occupational health and saftey officer come in and assess everything a while ago. one of his suggestions was that we do something about the uneven cobblestone path at the back of the yard because children might trip on it. that cobblestone is ALL over the neighbourhood (and mostly heritage listed so it can’t be taken out anyway). its part of the kids everyday lives. yes, some do run and trip on it but they’re minor injuries and they learn how to walk safely on it from their accidents.

  • Our desire to protect kids has gotten extreme. Unfortunately I’m afraid in many circumstances it is to protect themselves from potential lawsuits rather than doing what is in the child’s best interest.

  • Wow.

    What a story.

    I think we are way too cautious with children.

    It’s hard not to be paranoid though.

    We were very paranoid with our son. My thing was choking. I worried so much that he was going to choke on a piece of food. I heard a story about a child dying from popcorn and forbid my child from eating any until he was six.

    My husband’s thing was climbing on furniture. He freaks out when he sees Jack climbing on the couch or sitting on a chair wrong.

    I used to freak out when Jack climbed on high playground equitment– so scared he’d fall.

    Then one day, Jack was running on a normal sidewalk. He tripped and fell. Something that could happen easily to anyone. But he fell the wrong way and broke his arm.

    I thought it was ironic….all the times we had worried about dangerous activities and he ended up getting hurt doing something very childlike and innocent.

    It made me realize that you really can’t protect against all harm….unless you keep your child locked in a padded room. And then….like you said, you’re going to have an obese child on your hands. Very dangerous in itself.

  • I think that we are too cautious with children, particularly boys. We don’t let them be as adventurous and creative as they naturally are. That’s why so many kids are getting hurt on the new “safe” playground equipment…because it’s too tame to use as it was designed, so they find new ways to use it that are more dangerous than the old supposedly dangerous equipment.

  • What happened to spontaneity and children just being children? And what will happen when they grow up having lived a childhood of suppression and not being allowed to express themselves? After all, that’s what cartwheeling and running around and all those other things are.

  • I am the father of Deirdre Faegre, the American student suspended for cartwheels and handstands in 2004 and referenced [Townsville Bulletin] in this latest episode of outrageous usurpation of life, liberty and happiness in Australia.

    The backlash of their arrogance is in full bloom but don’t let up. Take off the gloves Ms Buschgens, and let the education elite know that you are in control of your children–not faceless authoritarians determined to deny children their rite of passage. You will win for the sake of all children. Stand up to them and let me know if I can help…

    Leland Thomas Faegre

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