Saturday, October 09, 2004

Weird world of UK law

And when I say weird, I really mean it. I dont know if this news reached anywhere outside the UK, but in case it didnt, let me give you the gist of it: A school headmaster has told his students that they can only play with conkers while in school if they wear sunglasses to protect their eyes.

(Conkers, just to make it clear, are horse-chestnuts, a traditional autumn plaything for children. They usually drill a hole through the dry nut, thread a string through it, and then swing it at conkers held by someone else. Not unsurprisingly, some conkers shatter on impact, and since they are fairly hard, there is tiny possibility of a shard piercing somebody.)

The surprising thing here is not that the headmaster has gone to such lengths to ensure the safety of the kids, but the REASON behind his action - which is the local school authority. It wanted to pass a law banning all schools from letting children play with conkers within the school premises. The headmaster said he didnt want to stop his students from enjoying themselves at break, stop a traditional activity, or make it difficult for children to be children.

The irony here is that laws or not, children WILL be children - they will play with conkers no matter who tells them not to. The bottomline is, it wasnt really the children that the headmaster was trying to protect; it was himself, the teachers and other school staff that he was worried about. And the reason for THAT is the increasing number of lawsuits brought by parents against teachers and schools in case of an accident to their child - say if he/she climbs a tree in the schoolyard, falls and gets hurt. The argument is that teachers and assistants are supposed to be looking after the students and it's their job to ensure that the kids dont hurt themselves. If the kids disobey the rules and get hurt - well, it's still the fault of the staff members and care-givers (and there's a term I hate).

Isnt it ridiculous? The country seems to have come to a situation where somebody has to be blamed for whatever happens - and, of course, with blame comes the greed for compensation. There are zillions of "no win no fee" organisations that are only too happy to help the parents' greed along, while fattening themselves on the proceeds. If you trip over an uneven bit on the footpath, it's not because you are careless or clumsy, or werent looking where you were going. Oh no. It's because the local council didnt bother to make the footpath safe - and therefore you've got the right to sue it and get compensated for your unbearable agony of mind and body!

But I digress. Everybody is perfectly aware of how difficult it is for parents to protect one child from inadvertent hurts and scrapes; how much more difficult, then, to control a whole schoolful of the disobedient, unruly little darlings with only a few staff!

Here's a thought - perhaps the parents should start suing one another if their child gets hurt at home while with one or the other of them. Or better yet, take the logic one step further and give children their suing rights as well. That way, if a child trips over a toy it left lying around, and sprains or breaks an ankle, it can then claim compensation for the injury from the parents. How about that! Pretty soon, children will never be let out of the home (except maybe on a leash) so that nobody can sue or get sued - and even at home, parents will have to ensure that there is nothing on which children can injure themselves. A padded room and a straitjacket seem to be called for.


b said...

and here i thought only the americans were such a litigious lot. oh well, you live and learn!
(topical news: only yesterday, there was a report about a child in salem killed when his science project blew up in his face. his science teacher was taken into custody and released on bail. who does one sue?)

None said...

and in this country, we have children playing in construction rubble, with old tubelights, stones, sticks bits of strings, on the roads...
very sobering, this disparity.


gudlak said...

Well, many things are weird in the UK (as in the rest of the world)!! I've just subbed a story where the first Satanist was registered in the Brit Navy, as they don't want to be discriminatory!!!! I have no objection to Satanists but what I found disturbing was what we are saying yes to now _ 50 years ago, this would just not have been possible. Are we moving in the right direction? I somehow don't think so...and there are too many examples to support that, that needs a mail, not a post.