Cabell removes out-of-compliance swings from schools

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 13, 2010

HUNTINGTON -- Elementary school swings that do not meet safety standards are being removed from Cabell County schools until the problem can be addressed.

Assistant Superintendent Mike O'Dell said that chains and swing seats have been removed from Cox Landing, Culloden, Spring Hill, Highlawn and Milton elementary schools. The swings from other schools will be removed as time permits.

Only one school, Davis Creek, has a swing set that is in compliance with safety standards.

Superintendent William Smith and Director of Maintenance James Colegrove said the swings will be stored until a solution is found.

"Any school that has swings out of compliance, which are most of them, we are taking the chains and the seats down until we get this resolved," O'Dell said.

It is unknown what the decision will be or when it could come.

Smith said the decision is not about whether they will get sued, but about keeping the children safe.

Communications Director Jedd Flowers said the move was only temporary.

Smith said they are looking at the swing sets one-by-one, asking if they can bring them into compliance and what that compliance will take.

"We will try to expedite as best we can and put a plan in place to start restoring them," he said.

Cabell County Schools officials began considering the removal of swings from elementary school playgrounds because of two recent lawsuits and the costs associated with meeting national standards for playground safety.

In December 2009, two suits were filed against Cabell County Board of Education by Joseph Johnson, whose son and daughter were both injured on the playground at Spring Hill Elementary School at different times.

Johnson's son broke his arm when he jumped off of a swing "like Superman," in April 2006. His daughter fractured her nose when she fell from a set of monkey bars in August 2007. In both suits, Johnson claimed the Board of Education failed to meet national playground safety standards. Both suits settled, his son's suit for $20,000, and his daughter's suit for $3,000.

The current guidelines for swings require a protective layer of sand, pea gravel, wood mulch, wood chips or recycled rubber that extends a distance equal to twice the height of the swing in each direction.

Since mid-August, the school officials have gone back and forth regarding the swing set issue.

Smith said they want to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Sen. Evan Jenkins suggested leaving the issue alone for the remainder of the school year while he tried to get liability reform passed during the 2011 legislative session, but Smith said that waiting was not an option.

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