In the springtime on the playground at Cordley School, there is a problem for kids.
People let their dogs come and play on the playground, people walk their dogs on the playground, and sometimes people play basketball or just visit and bring their dogs with them to run loose.
Dogs make a mess, leave droppings on the playground and it's there when kids come to school. Kids step or maybe fall in the mess, and it is a real problem during recess. Sometimes dogs come onto the playground during recess. That's also a problem.
Lots of times, when kids track this mess into the school, the mess gets from kids' shoes onto the floors in the hallways and into the classrooms.
That's a problem for the janitors. I did a survey by talking to and writing Don Varnau and Kelly Faulk at Cordley. They don't think it should be their job to clean up the mess. Faulk says it is the job of the dog owners to clean up dog messes. When she has to take time to clean up dog messes from the playground or halls or classrooms, the work takes her away from other important jobs she needs to do. Don says he doesn't have a problem cleaning up dog droppings, and he does have to do this when it is tracked into the building.
I also wrote to Richard L. Ziesenis, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department director of environmental health. He replied that it is possible for people to get illnesses from dog droppings.
There are microorganisms and parasites from some dogs that can give you sickness. The symptoms are similar to stomach flu. He said it is also important to get any dog mess off your hands or your body by washing with soap and warm water for 30 seconds immediately after direct contact. Ziesenis said to remember that the dog has to be carrying a disease before it can be given to a person. Dogs that run loose on the Cordley playground could have a disease. We do not know.
Dogs also run loose on the playground during the school day. Sometimes dogs chase kids and sometimes kids chase dogs, too. If a dog would bite a kid, there would be other diseases to worry about, like rabies. Since we do not know if dogs on the Cordley playground are carrying a disease or not, it is real important for kids to stay away from dogs and from any dog mess on the playground. Kids should learn how to clean up if they do get into a dog mess.
I think that dogs should not be allowed on Cordley property without a leash or without being tied up to something solid. But I wanted to learn what the laws say about this, so I asked police Lt. Kevin Harmon about this problem, and here's what the law says. A dog may run loose on public property, such as school grounds, if the property is not downtown, if the dog is not damaging property and if the dog is under the immediate supervision of its owner.
I think the dog messes on the playground are damaging our public property. The part of the law about dogs being under immediate supervision is not enforced. I understand that this law is probably hard to enforce. Mrs. Hyde, a second-grade teacher, says that when dogs run loose during recess, teachers try to find out who owns the dog and call them, or they call the dog catcher. But a lot of the dogs that do come on the playground and do break the law by not being under immediate supervision run away before they can be caught.
I would like for Cordley kids to be clean and safe at school. Janitors don't want to deal with dog messes and teachers don't want this mess in the school halls or on kids. I hope people in Lawrence will try to help solve this problem. So please try to follow these suggestions:
- Please keep your dog under supervision when on the Cordley playground and don't allow your dog on the playground during the school day.
- Please clean up after your dog. Please also clean up after yourself (while I was checking the playground on three different mornings to see what mess dogs had left, I found broken bottles and plastic and paper trash). Throw your trash away and don't leave it on the playground.
- Please observe and obey the sign at the entrance to the Cordley playground.
- Please use the trash can that will be placed on or near the playground in the near future (maybe not until summer, according to Tom Christie, Cordley principal).
- Kids, please stay away from dogs and dog droppings while you are on the Cordley playground.
Following these rules is just a basic way to be courteous.
-- Arna Hemenway, 8, is a student in Bev Hyde's second-grade class at Cordley School, 1837 Vt.