Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998


May 29, 1998


Even children trying to stay out of trouble face many day-to-day safety hazards.

A number of stories in Wednesday's Journal-World remind us of the safety hazards facing children and the special threats that increase when school lets out and youngsters get involved in summer activities.

One of the most dramatic reminders was the decision to close the McLouth schools three days early after rumors circulated concerning an angry student who might turn violent at the school. What once might have been dismissed as ``just talk'' took on more importance following a recent string of deadly incidents across the country involving students and guns. The threat in McLouth may or may not have been serious, but it's easy to see why school officials decided it wasn't worth the risk to keep the schools open for the last three days of the year.

Despite the nation's best efforts to explain the school shootings or assign blame, this deadly convergence of youngsters and guns remains shocking. Schools should be a safe haven for our young people. Taunts, pranks or even an occasional fistfight are bound to occur but the level of violence that has been directed at youngsters by their peers this spring should escalate everyone's concern for the safety of our young people.

Those concerns, of course, shouldn't end -- and perhaps should be heightened -- when school lets out for the summer. The volatile mix of guns and youngsters certainly doesn't end with the arrival of summer, and children with more time on their hands are more inclined to find unproductive ways to spend it.

Other stories in Wednesday's Journal-World told of construction of a new skate park in Lawrence and a special sports camp for ``at risk'' students that will be held at Kansas University. The skate park planned for Centennial Park won't be ready this summer, but about 250 children from across the state will attend the KU camp. The sports camp is designed specifically for children who meet certain economic guidelines, but there are dozens of other activities, camps and recreational facilities in Lawrence to help keep children supervised and entertained during the summer hours.

Another story discussed safety issues at the Lawrence Aquatic Center, a popular summer destination for many families and children. An incident last weekend in which a 5-year-old boy got into water that was too deep, ingested water into his lungs and was hospitalized overnight, prompted a discussion of safety questions at the pool.

Lawrence is lucky to have gone 30 years without a drowning at the public pool. That is a tribute to the work of lifeguards and pool supervisors, but it isn't a guarantee against future tragedies. Parents accompanying children to the pool or at least insisting that siblings or friends use a buddy system in the pool can provide a vital additional safeguard.

This the summer, there will be many children riding bicycles, crossing streets, chasing balls and engaging in other activities that distract them from being as safety-conscious as they should be. That's why it's important for adults to try to take up the slack by paying attention to children who may not be paying enough attention to what's going on around them.

School shootings may be too complex an issue for most of us to resolve, but all of us have the power to try to prevent the simple accidents that can befall children.

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