Free-Range Kids

Bureaucrats Bulldoze Beloved Playground for Special Needs Kids

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Special needs playground
Liz Bullard

Last month, the Seattle Parks Department ordered the destruction of a play area designed for special needs kids, claiming its four-foot rope ladder, tire swing, and "nest" made of rope and bike tires were "extreme dangers" and "hazardous conditions." That's an odd verdict: In 10 years of existence, no children were ever significantly injured on the play area equipment, according to Liz Bullard, who helped design the space. As she writes in Crosscut.com:

These simple play features may seem ordinary, but…here children with cerebral palsy, autism and developmental delays are encouraged and assisted as needed to climb and swing alongside their typically developing peers. The joy is palpable.

We complied with the order, but it has left a bitter taste in our mouths. Our kids have been robbed of the simple pleasure of climbing and swinging under a beautiful tree.

The thing about kids with special needs is that they often have to spend a lot of time in less-than-fun institutions. Hospitals. Therapists' offices. Waiting rooms. The "Wild Zone," as the play area was called, was specifically "designed to provide relief from the highly controlled and often hyper-medicalized world our kids move in," writes Bullard.

One mom of a child with special needs commented on a post about the city's order, "This is a travesty!! How dare they steal the only play space in the Greater Seattle area, let alone the NW that is dedicated to creating a healthy play space for special kids where they aren't judged by their lesser abilities."

Wrote another mom: "The Play Garden is the best! My son attended preschool there for three years and I am so grateful for the Wild Zone. There was nothing dangerous about it. Nothing!"

free-range-kids

Ah, but when you're a bureaucrat and you live in the world of what if thinking, danger is everywhere. Just imagine, "what if someone got hurt?" Look at the world that way and no play area wil seem safe enough.

This outlook seems to be sweeping Washington state. Recall that just a few weeks ago the Richland School District decided to phase out all swings because what if a child got hurt on them?

Too bad the bureaucrats never consider the reverse: What if kids never get a chance to climb a ladder, or hang from the monkey bars? What if kids with special needs know that after their doctor's appointment they will have to go straight home, because there's no place left for them to play?

At least they won't be exposed to the "extreme danger" of a tire swing.

Related: "Little Girl's Playset Is in Her Own Backyard, City Wants It Destroyed Anyway"

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  1. Looks like a regulator ran out of things to do that day.

    1. Should have just done the alt-text, instead.

    2. …..rules are rules!

  2. In 10 years of existence, no children were ever significantly injured on the play area equipment

    That just means they’re due! The injuries have been hiding in the ocean!

    1. +1 life that could conceivably be saved, in which case don’t we have a duty to try?

      I’ve noticed that the Top Men often place more emphasis on what could hypothetically happen than on what actually has happened.

      1. Including the cases where what has actually happened has been a disaster.

      2. It’s much easier to create some rule and brag about all the mayhem you have prevented, than it is to actually do something about something that actually happened.

        1. Last week 5 million children were saved by bulldozers. Science.

  3. Did they clear our the kids before bulldozing the place?

    1. We’ll have to check the debris pile.

      1. If their parents weren’t watching them, it was their own damn fault. Besides, the plans were on display at City Hall for the last 3 months.

        1. “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

          “That’s the display department.”

          “With a torch.”

          “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

          “So had the stairs.”

          “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

          “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”

          1. It’s not as if it’s a particularly nice house, Mr. Dent.

  4. After a few days of whining, the parents will go back to staying quiet and voting for Democrats like they’re supposed to. The bureaucrats are like Ents, they weather all things.

    1. And a few months later, they’ll be bitching and moaning about a growing obesity epidemic again.

  5. All jokes about orphans working my uranium mine aside, this is just cruel. What kind of insufferable prick takes away a playground for retarded kids “for their own good”. For the life of me, I can’t see how whoever is behind this is able to go home at night and look his or her family in the eye. Honestly, this is a case where I really wish the kids would go whirling dervish on them, all fists and elbows.

    This is genuinely disgusting.

    1. People like this Bill (from comments to linked article):

      “Good grief, then your group should offer to get insurance and take on the liability from the City. If that costs too much, or isn’t possible, then maybe that should tell you something.

      How about working with the city to find a safe alternative that works instead of criticizing the Parks department from doing their jobs just because it inconveniences your program? Haven’t we seen plenty of the OPPOSITE view of this article, where City officials get criticized because they don’t address these issues? Look at the current hysteria by parents claiming that Parks let their children be exposed to radiation in Magnuson Park.”

      This is the mindset we’re fighting – and losing against.

      1. So, people really do want to live their lives as cogs – no freedom, no responsibility.

        Thanks, now I really am disgusted.

        1. People love being slaves.

          1. I don’t think that’s it. People are willing to be slaves if it makes life easy and takes responsibility off of them.

          2. Hey, what you choose to do in your bedroom is your own business.

    2. more than likely an outside company paid someone to demolish this so that they could sell them the newest and bestest safest equipment

      1. DING DING DING! Give the man a cigar! You’re a winner on today’s edition of “WHO MAKES THE MONEY?”

  6. I have a hard time getting my rage up for this kind of stuff. “Hey we voted to rob people to pay for our special little guy’s play space and now the goons we hired to steal from other people are stealing from us. Unfair!”

    1. Amendment: upon further research this is a public-private project. They should have told the public part to fuck off and gone full private.

      1. Inconceivable. Literally, I mean. Some people simply cannot conceive of acting entirely on their own without the government holding their hand.

        1. Not just that, but probably that option was unavailable. And even if it is, check out the linked article about the family with the swing set.

    2. Ultimately, you are right, I suppose. But public parks and playgrounds are very, very low down on the list of things to get worked up about. And bulldozing it and doing whatever they are going to do with the property next are just more and worse wastes of stolen money.

  7. the Richland School District decided to phase out all swings because what if a child got hurt on them

    The Richland School District should phase itself out because what if a child got hurt by an RSD bureaucrat.

    1. Nope, best to bulldoze all RSD buildings with all the potential RSD child abusers locked inside. Jesus these people are disgusting.

  8. Our kids have been robbed of the simple pleasure of climbing and swinging under a beautiful tree.

    FOR THE CHILDREN! Also, I’m pretty sure trees are racist, sexist, and probably homophobic.

    Ah, but when you’re a bureaucrat and you live in the world of what if fuck-you-that’s-why thinking, danger is everywhere.

    Fixed.

    1. You forgot classist. After all, you see a lot more of them in Great Falls than in the projects.

  9. “special kids where they aren’t judged by their lesser abilities.”

    I don’t think the euphemism works when you add the second part of that sentence.

    1. Why not? “Special” is just a nice way to say “not normal”. It doesn’t necessarily have positive connotations.

      1. They went with “special” to get away from words like “disabled” that meant they weren’t as capable. And then she blows it by referring to their “lesser abilities”

  10. Oh, sure. You guys want to wait until some kid gets hurt or killed, and then what? You will blame the government. Wah, wah, everything is the government’s fault. Some kid falls on a playground that the government partly owns, and it’s the government’s fault for building it. Forward thinking bureaucrats tear down the playground, and wah, wah, government. That’s all you’ve got is wah, wah government. Stupid libertarians.

    /progderp

    1. You laugh, but I’ve heard that argument before. Progs use it in cases like this, conservatives use it when it comes to security/spying issues.

      Heck, it even came up in the comments to the linked article:

      Good grief, then your group should offer to get insurance and take on the liability from the City. If that costs too much, or isn’t possible, then maybe that should tell you something.

      How about working with the city to find a safe alternative that works instead of criticizing the Parks department from doing their jobs just because it inconveniences your program? Haven’t we seen plenty of the OPPOSITE view of this article, where City officials get criticized because they don’t address these issues? Look at the current hysteria by parents claiming that Parks let their children be exposed to radiation in Magnuson Park.

      1. ‘Working with the city’.

        The city has no interest in dealing in a fair and equitable manner with citizens. If they were they wouldn’t pull shit like this.

        And not to go Godwin asshole, but Nazis were ‘just doing their jobs’ too.

        1. However, I bet they eventually do come up with some alternative. It’ll cost the taxpayers more $ & will be no less dangerous, but for superficial p.r. purposes will look like a solution.

          1. Oh, the alternative will be MORE dangerous, but with magical bureaucratic slight of hand, it will all be pushed under the carpet. If it pops back out, it will all be hung on the private sector suppliers in the end.

            1. I wouldn’t put up the ‘safe’ daycre playsets approved by the government here. They seem no safer or more dangerous than any playset.

              Ah. But it’s a fine racket if you can get in on it. You have to get it ‘approved’ by an engineer to make sure it’s put up right.

              I’m not kidding.

      2. Progs use it in cases like this, conservatives use it when it comes to security/spying issues.

        Actually, you are assigning a degree of intellectual integrity and consistency to both groups that isn’t warranted. Progressives and conservatives use these arguments whenever they think it will get them votes.

        In fact, they flip-flop on using or opposing those arguments depending on who is in power and what their opponent says.

    2. Also posted in reply to another story linked above (the one about the city officials trying to destroy a playground in a special needs kid’s backyard):

      scrootalaboo ? a month ago

      Yes, government over-reacts and under-responds, BUT…if the girl had gotten hurt over junk in the yard then it would be government under-responsiveness and you’d all be crying about how awful this mom is and how inattentive government is.

      1. Andrew,

        those sentences that “scrootalaboo”
        wrote last month – I just… He or she… I mean… Oh never mind.

  11. I stopped reading past “beloved”

  12. Too bad the bureaucrats never consider the reverse: What if kids never get a chance to climb a ladder, or hang from the monkey bars?

    That will not end you up in court with a shark PI plaintiff’s attorney snagging even more taxpayer money.

  13. Tell me again- who are the developmentally disabled retards in this story?

  14. Now I have to ask, how many of these distraught parents voted for that background check bill because they thought it would prevent school shootings from ever happening again?

    1. At least 51%.

  15. Bureaucrats despise risk. The only way they can lose their jobs is to royally fuck up while doing something outside of the proscribed rules. As long as they can say they followed the procedure, they’re safe.

    This breeds a mentality that is diametrically opposed to risk and they will always act accordingly.

    1. You have just described what I deal with every…. single…. day.

      10 hours of meetings and document prep for each hour of legitimate labor performed.

      1. “That *is* your job!” 8-(

        1. Yes it is! But as they are your tax dollars I’d feel better about things if the trend was towards 8 & 2, or dare I say even 7 & 3!

          Because efficiency!

      2. Same here.

    2. Yes. In our world of bureaucratic administration, adherence to accepted procedure, no matter how counter-intuitive or asinine it may be, is seen as a legitimate defense against people who have suffered an injury.

      1. Yes, Anonymous Coward, it does seem that all that counts is that there were procedures in place and those procedures were followed.

        “Even if our procedures resulted in your loss, injury, or death, the fact that we were following our procedures for YOUR safety removes all mental responsibility and material accountability from our actions and lack of actions.

        For Your Total Well-being.

        Sincerely,

        Officer Safety”

    3. This is why I call police “bureaucrats with badges”.

  16. “The Seattle Parks Department ordered the destruction of a play area designed for special needs kids, claiming its four-foot rope ladder, tire swing, and “nest” made of rope and bike tires were “extreme dangers” and “hazardous conditions.”

    The progressive idea of safe and happy means keeping people strapped down in rubber rooms and on a constant dopamine drip.

    They probably think I should be arrested for riding around on my motorcycle, you know, for my own good. I must be uneducated…or something.

    1. Did you mean Thorazine drip? Unless you want them all jacked up.

  17. Literally six LEO’s are ultimately required to figure out if a slackline is legal in a Seattle park:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXycwkc8BG0

    What the fuck is wrong with the water in Seattle?

    1. What the fuck is wrong with the water in Seattle?

      From personal experience, it’s wont to back up into the sewer.

      Jus’ sayin’

  18. Bureaucrats are only rewarded or punished for the exceptional failure never for the routine success. No person working for the Seattle Parks Department will ever be rewarded for the playground operating safely. The will only be punished if something happens and they could have done something to prevent it and didn’t. When you understand that, you understand why they are doing what they are doing.

    As tempting as it is to think the solution here is to tar and feather these people, that is not the right answer. Bureaucracies are what they are and they will forever live by the exception and be risk adverse. Punishing these people won’t change that.

    The solution here is not to have a parks department. Privatize the parks and let neighborhood associations and charities or civic groups run them. Government parks sound great and are great for while. They do not remain that way. Eventually the people running the government parks respond to the inherent incentive structure of government, become risk adverse, and start doing monstrously stupid and unjust things like this.

    1. It’s a general problem with government delegating power without discretion.

      It enables politicians to avoid responsibility and blame someone when something goes wrong, while simultaneously presenting voters with the illusion that they can eliminate all risk from life.

      1. Not quite hazel. It is a general problem with government. Government is all about prohibiting harm and dealing with the exception. If things in life go well and no one ever gets hurt or complains, government is never involved. So government never benefits or concerns itself for those situations. Government only concerns itself with the exception. So government employees never benefit from things going well. They are only punished if they fail to act when things go wrong. This makes them risk adverse. How could they not be? It is why the government shouldn’t be running parks or really much of anything beyond national defense, the courts and the criminal justice system.

        1. It’s because they are being tasked with the job of eliminating risk from things that are always going to be inherently risky in a free society.
          Giving the task to a separate entity allows them to pretend they aren’t really making people less free. They can get the credit for making children safer (by appointing someone to do it), without taking responsibility for the decisions that person makes.

          1. It’s because they are being tasked with the job of eliminating risk from things that are always going to be inherently risky in a free society.

            Absolutely. And ask yourself why that is. It is because the incentive structure created by government makes them think that way.

    2. How to you get rid of the parks department?

      If we tar and feather these people, maybe no one will want to work for the parks department? That’s the only way I can think of getting rid of it.

      Think of how a certain group was finally able to get rid of the shitty police forces in Iraq. I’m not saying the ends necessarily justifies the means, but it is the ONLY example of such ends actually being achieved.

      1. I wish I knew how to get rid of the parks department. I am just saying as long as you have one, this kind of shit is inevitable. You can limit it but you can never fully stop it.

        I am not saying we should let these people off the hook. I am just saying that their behavior speaks more to the inherent limitations of evils of government than it does to these particular people’s stupidity. This is why government should be doing very few things.

      2. I think that tarring and feathering these people (without then going to prison) would be at least as difficult as abolishing the parks department, which could be easily accomplished if the political will existed.

        1. Political will and mob violence are two sides of the same coin.

  19. Hey! Just hold it one gosh darn second here! Didn’t Fearless Leader ( aka Chocolate Messiah ) just finish telling us there’s something seriously wrong with those who dare question Government? And are not the “Bureaucrats” the representatives Government here on Earth? Sounds a little sacrilegious.

    1. In some ways, people only have themselves to blame for this. If the solution to every accident or misfortune wasn’t to sue or demand government action to prevent it in the future, the people at the Parks Department might not be so concerned about kids getting hurt in their parks.

      The people who work for the Parks Department get no benefit from this playground and assume all of the risk if an accident occurs. Is it any wonder they are happy to see it torn down?

      It is an idiotic decision. Yet, is there any doubt that at least some of these parents who are throwing a fit would be throwing an equal fit and probably filing law suits if one of their little snowflakes ever got hurt here?

      It goes back to why you shouldn’t have a parks department. Having one just allows people to blame the government for any misfortune they happen to suffer in the park. These people want their playground but whether they know it or not always want big daddy government there to make it all better if things go wrong. When think of it that way, you would want to tear the damn thing down too if you were the Parks Department.

      1. Getting rid of the parks department would be good, but I don’t see that happening. Slightly more likely, I think, would be some tort-reform. You should be able to put up a sign that says “use playground at your own risk” and leave it at that.

        1. The trouble with tort reform is it’s too particular/peculiar. You want to remove the general right of people to have their case decided by a jury to recover damages? Or you want to legislate some particular instances, in advance of knowing the facts of whatever cases might come up, saying you don’t get damages, or full damages in case blah, blah?

          What you really want, & so do I, is to get back to reasonable notions of liability, but you can’t get there by legislation.

          1. Yes Robert. Go back to the common law, in this case the doctrines of assumption of the risk, contributory negligence and charitable immunity and the problem goes away. But doing that would make it so people are responsible for their actions. And no one wants that.

            1. You don’t even need contributory negligence, just a better application of proportional negligence or proportional fault, and get rid of joint & several liability.

      2. There ought to be a law!

      3. Yet, is there any doubt that at least some of these parents who are throwing a fit would be throwing an equal fit and probably filing law suits if one of their little snowflakes ever got hurt here?

        Not in my mind. Many of the stupidities imbedded in the law nowadays have their origin in such people.

        Many power-hungry fucks infest our government, but even power-hungry fucks must be fed. They’re fed by people who somewhere got the notion that they’re not obliged to take responsibility for their own lives. “There ought to be a law!” kills more day-to-day freedom than any politician could.

        I wonder sometimes how many young people go into law enforcement with dreams of protecting people from criminals but discover that they’re really just wet nurses for overgrown children.

  20. I am tired of autistic privilege so I approve of this.

  21. In our world of bureaucratic administration, adherence to accepted procedure, no matter how counter-intuitive or asinine it may be, is seen as a legitimate defense against people who have suffered an injury.

    PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED.

  22. Someone needs to invent a term for the tendency of bureaucracies to pursue their mission mindlessly and relentlessly as far as the law will allow.

    Someone passed a law that said “Your job is to protect kids safety”, and now they are legally obligated to use every power available to them to protect kid’s safety to the highest degree they conceivably can.
    If they did anything else they would be violating the law.

    1. They are only held responsible when things go wrong Hazel. What incentive do they have to be anything but risk adverse?

      It is easy for you and I to say this thing should stay up. We are not the ones that are going to have to answer to some angry parent or the public if something goes wrong.

      Sadly, there is no way the parents will ever learn this lesson. But wouldn’t it be nice if they concluded that the solution is to build their own playground and accept whatever risk of injury comes with that? That way they would both have the freedom to let their kids play as they liked and also accepted the responsibility of whatever consequences resulted from that.

      No. They won’t do that. They will just raise hell and make sure the government keeps the playground. That way they get the freedom of using it and also the comfort of knowing the government will be responsible for any mishaps.

      1. We’re saying basically the same thing. The bureucrats legally HAVE TO follow their instructions and maximize safety. That’s what they are tasked with. It’s not even about fear of getting punished. It’s because they don’t have any real discretionary power. All they can do is mindlessly follow their mission. And the politicians like it that way, because they don’t have to take any responsibility for what the bureucrats are doing. They can wash their hands of the agency shutting down a kid’s park, or blame them when someone gets hurt. They can sell voters the idea that perfect safety is possible without admitting there are any tradeoffs.

      2. They are only held responsible when things go wrong Hazel. […and get no benefit when things go right…] What incentive do they have to be anything but risk adverse?

        This is true. And it’s the exact opposite of the reward system in the free market.

  23. This is one of the intractable problems of our time & place. We have a choice of only too-blunt & too-fine instruments to try to fix it with.

    The problem is that, arising from the diffuse culture of the legal academy & profession, monstrously overgrown notions of liability have come about. Fixing that problem directly would be a task taking generations of changing the legal culture, an enormous task. Fixing it indirectly would require either abrogation of the 5th amendment & similar state & foreign guarantees of substantive & procedural rights in being made whole for damages, or particular legislated exemptions to override liability in particular circumstances, neither of which is satisfactory.

    1. All very true. You fix the problem by doing two very simple but very large and difficult to accomplish things.

      1. Get the government out of the business of running parks or doing anything other than the few things only government can do.

      2. Go back to the common law. Every time the government steps in to move us away from common law doctrines, harm and absurdity results.

      1. If the parks were private nobody could afford the insurance. Let’s all thank lawyers for keeping us and our children “safe”.

    2. There is the legal concept of assumed liability, but IANAL and have no idea of how the concept is currently applied and how the application of it has changed over time. Comments from knowledgeable people are welcome.

      1. There’s been a very heavy shot of paternalism into the system. It is assumed that one party knows much more than the other party about dangers, and that it is efficient for that party then to bear the risk, saving work for the rest of us. Of course that takes away incentive for the other party to learn about & assess risks.

        And it does have that adverse effect over time. How many times have you heard it said, “They wouldn’t have this here if it weren’t safe.”? Disclaimers & warnings are taken to be pro forma, hence easily ignored. So the regime is cemented in place by positive feedback.

    3. Could be the root of the problem is allowing juries in civil liability cases to assign damages.

      What tends to happen in that case is that people are spending other people’s money to signal empathy for victims of accidents. It costs them nothing to take a large sum of money from a faceless organization and give it to someone. Also, a big corporation or government agecy is assumed to be deep pocketed, and is also faceless. It’s much easier to sympathize with an individual than a large organization.
      So jury rewarded punitive damages tend to be unbalanced.

      Civil liability should be limited to proportional compensation. Punitive measures need to be handled in a different way. I could imagine having some punitive damages but having them restricted to civil fines.

  24. when you eliminate methods that can cause harm people do not learn their limits and thus often get into greater harm since they have no sense of what may be dangerous. Sometimes you have to stub your toe to know not to kick the walls.

  25. Tea parties are dangerous because they encourage children to be in close proximity to dangerously hot beverages.

  26. Remember: benevolent bureacrats know what’s best for your kids (and you)!

    I think anyone even thinking about having a child in this world is coldly considering an act of cruelty.

  27. Seattle. Isn’t that the city where they let that hawk fly around the stadium? In fact I think it landed on some guy’s head the other day. Good thing it didn’t happen to a child and good thing it’s the NFL.

  28. My best friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 /hour on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    Visit this website ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  29. Unelected tyrants, bureaucrats who believe they aren’t final word on how we live and what we can and cannot do.

  30. Unelected tyrants, bureaucrats who believe they aren’t final word on how we live and what we can and cannot do.

  31. Safety has nothing to do with it. This seems to be on public land. The state should probably own a lot less land, but for land owned by the state, people shouldn’t put private stuff on it, no matter how useful some people may think it is.

    1. If the public cannot use the land, then the land is not public. It is government-owned, which is not the same thing.

    2. Local parks can easily be provided by the private sector. One model is that of Gramercy Park in NYC. Think also of the many condominium communities including artificial lakes for recreation.

  32. One wonders if Crosscut will now see the irony of Big Government and precautionary principle?

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