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Boy Left Stranded In Tree Because of Health and Safety Policy

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the you-got-yourself-into-this-mess dept.

Idle 73

School employees left a 5-year-old boy stranded in a tree because it is against health and safety policies in the UK to help him down. Instead they went inside to "observe from a distance" so the boy would not get "distracted and fall." The incident reached an even more ridiculous level when passer-by Kim Barrett had the audacity to actually help the child down. Officials promptly called the police and tried to have her charged with trespassing. From the article: "Mrs Martin confirmed that the school's policy prevents staff going to the aid of children who have climbed trees. She said: 'The safety of our pupils is our priority and we would like to make it clear that this child was being observed at all times during this very short incident. Like other schools whose premises include wooded areas, our policy when a child climbs a tree, is for staff to observe the situation from a distance so the child does not get distracted and fall. We would strongly urge members of the public not to climb over a padlocked gate to approach children as their motives are not clear to staff.'"

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Sounds good. (2, Insightful)

dsavi (1540343) | about 4 years ago | (#31628878)

...Forbid that common sense would prevail over bureaucracy. It's one of the many gifts that humans have over computers, yet so many waste it. GOTO 10

Re:Sounds good. (2, Insightful)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 4 years ago | (#31631916)

But if you use your common sense you might get into trouble! Don't want that.

I was just following orders.

Re:Sounds good. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31638564)

...Now if you would please line up for the "showers" meinen damen und herren.

Re:Sounds good. (3, Insightful)

krou (1027572) | about 4 years ago | (#31647008)

I've encountered this type of thinking before. I got onto a train that had arrived at the the last stop, and was about to head back in the opposite direction. I watched all the passengers get off, but there was still a young girl hunched over in her chair. Thinking she was asleep, I got on and tried to wake her up. She was unresponsive, so I tried to shake her awake. Still, no response, just a groan of some sort. Her eyes were fluttering between closed and open. Worried, thinking she could be a diabetic and had fallen into a coma, I went to alert the guard, who promptly told me that she had already been on the train going backwards and forwards on the route for over an hour. Amazed, I asked the guard why hadn't he called for an ambulance, or tried to see if he could wake her up. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Not allowed to touch 'em, health and safety." It was only when I pressed the issue that he agreed to get some police and/or health services to meet the train at the next stop to help her.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

rcb1974 (654474) | about 4 years ago | (#31710612)

I am a parent of a diabetic child. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for going out of your way and thinking of others. You very well may have saved her life. I hope that guard really did contact the police or health services. Another thing you could have done is checked to see if she had a blood glucose meter, insulin pump, or medical alert tag, on her possession.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

v1 (525388) | about 4 years ago | (#31710712)

unfortunately, searching the child for such things would probably have only fanned the flames of paranoia.

as much as you have legitimate useful suggestions, it's unfortunately necessary to consider the tolerance level of the public in such cases.

And if the guard had been unwilling to assist even after heated discussion, imagine how much more crazy things could have gotten if the man tried to take her off the train and to a hospital?

Thirty years ago none of this would have been a problem, checking her for diabetic gear, even taking her to a hospital would have been acceptable to most. The situation isn't the problem. The world is just plain broken today.

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31725090)

And if the guard had been unwilling to assist even after heated discussion, imagine how much more crazy things could have gotten if the man tried to take her off the train and to a hospital?

I'm not sure if letting a child die would be considered better than attempting to save a child's life. But yeah, people amaze me. In many countries giving first aide to people is a legally protected right (i.e. you can't go to jail or be sued for libel if you end up killing the person in the process of trying to save them). I would guess that some people don't give two shits about the law or going to jail, as long as they can save a life. Some people wouldn't think twice, but yeah most people are just assholes.

On the good side, the type of people who would try to save somebody's life usually don't have too much to lose in the first place. That's because nice people finish last.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Duradin (1261418) | about 4 years ago | (#31750160)

Yup. As an ugly lug of a male about the only people I can freely interact with without raising some alarm is other (obviously) adult males. If a child or female was in need of aid I'd have to do what they tell kids these days to do: find someone who won't get maced to find a woman with children to deal with the situation. Otherwise good intentions become fodder for being viewed as a pedo or rapist.

Re:Sounds good. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31667526)

Forbid that common sense would prevail over bureaucracy.

That is such an ignorant statement. A human infant's morphology is designed so that it can withstand an impact from a fall much better than an adult elementary school teacher can. If an uninvited intruder wouldn't have trespassed on school grounds to rescue the infant, then the toddler would have eventually just fallen out of the tree on its own accord. Problem solved.

With adults getting involved, things become much more complicated. Laws were broken, and school and taxpayer liability were at stake. Britains are already over-taxed, we don't want to have to pay yet more money if a teacher would have broken her neck falling off of a tree. Children, on the other hand are more dispensable. Lose a teacher and you not only lose an investment of years of education, but you have to deal with the teachers union and the Labour Party. People need to stop thinking about their own morals and start thinking more about keeping Britain sheltered from responsability of thought and action. We have laws to protect children. We also need laws to protect adults from themselves. Playing the part of a good Samaritan is such a self-centered egotistical role that flies in the face of the Nanny State. You sir, obviously have no idea of how our beloved bureaucracy works.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 4 years ago | (#31678524)

In the first sentence I thought this was a pretty low troll, but for some reason I gave it a chance and it's one of the better comments on this post.

Now it's actually all the funnier that it was modded Troll. I bet Jonathan Swift would have been quickly modded to oblivion if he was alive and posting on the Internet today...

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31683562)

I thought I gave some fairly not-so-subtle hints (as to how to confront the post):

- "...the toddler would have eventually just fallen out of the tree on its own accord. Problem solved."
- "Children, on the other hand are more dispensable"
- "People need to stop thinking about their own morals"
- Think of the Chilren!!
- "keeping Britain sheltered from responsability of thought and action"
- "Playing the part of a good Samaritan is such a self-centered egotistical role that flies in the face of the Nanny State"
- "beloved bureaucracy"

Of course, like was already pointed out by another AC, it seems that there is another very different side to this story. It seems some Moderators here and many well experienced Slashdot posters seemed to have taken for granted that a British tabloid would post a "true" story that was devoid of bias. Many people can't seem to distinguish between either yellow journalism nor satire (from an Anonymous Coward like me). It makes me sad that so many tech-heads and Fanboys disparage English skills as useless and attribute them to people who can't do anything else.

It's comments like yours that give the Anonymous Coward a less mysterious and shadowy appeal.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

spatley (191233) | about 4 years ago | (#31709360)

Look dumasses the proper moderation on this post is either "funny" or "flamebait" not "interesting. Seriously, what turnip truck did you all fall off of? Were your irony genes mutated by cosmic rays or microwave ovens?

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31682318)

...Forbid that common sense would prevail over bureaucracy. It's one of the many gifts that humans have over computers, yet so many waste it. GOTO 10

1) I agree. It sucks when people blindly follow rules.


Re:Sounds good. (1)

Cato (8296) | about 4 years ago | (#31687536)

Here's the rebuttal by the school also linked in comment here; http://www.angrymob.uponnothing.co.uk/home/70-newspaper-lies/1032-really-bad-journalism [uponnothing.co.uk] - this incident never happened.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#31751810)

Mod parent up!

It's one of those Daily Mail Drivels.

FWIW - it looks like the blogger was better at posting a retraction...

The Guardian is not much better (they were the ones with the untrue headline "Children should be taught creationism, says education expert")

So who should have more credibility? The blogger or the newspapers?

Re:Sounds good. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#31764348)

I read the article, but you missed an important point - it did happen.

Facts not in debate:

1) Child, in/around tree, avoiding class
2) Passer-by intervention
3) Police involvement

Facts in debate:

1) Necessity of intervention
2) Result of intervention

Notice this quote:

Mr Hester took the woman back on to the playground during Key Stage 2 playtime and asked her to identify the tree and then challenged her regarding her entrance to the school via a locked gateway.

There was a disagreement, in that moment, and at least Mr Hester wasn't certain what this woman observed.

Without all the facts, this is a basic he-said-she-said.

I will say, though, that the label of "completely untrue story" is more false than the story itself. That's suspicious, I think.

Darwinism in action! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31629560)

I'm all for it.

OK, what really happened... (1)

Sarlin (1309837) | about 4 years ago | (#31631076)

was that the boy climbed the tree right as the bell for afternoon tea was rung and the faculty had to meet the tea and crumpet guy in the faculty lounge.

This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (3, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | about 4 years ago | (#31632566)

This is it, the essential example. It should be plated with gold and kept in a requilary.
I had a teacher like this once. Later in life, when I was reading up on Asperger, I realized she was a textbook case; the world is unpredictable and besides the most shallow emotions people are inscrutable black boxes, so just follow the rules and no one will blame you. I also realized this was basically how I had functioned up to my mid-teens.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

Svartalfar (867908) | about 4 years ago | (#31640708)

The problem is that anytime you step outside of the laws, you put yourself in danger of litigation. You're right, this is ridiculous. But it's mostly our fault as a people. Had they tried to help him and he fell anyways or someone was hurt, saying Well it was his fault he was in the tree wouldn't remove yourself from jeopardy. Sadly.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31650402)

Ah yes. Except that this is a Daily Fail story that combines "it's-health-and-safety-gone-mad" with "won't-somebody-think-of-the-children", two of their favourite topics.

Oh look, [uponnothing.co.uk] there appears to be another side to this story. What a surprise.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31653922)

I can't help noticing that in the story you link to, there are two statements from the school and they don't seem to be completely devoid of spin. The first says that no-one was stuck up the tree, but also leaves the impression that no-one was even up a tree. The second one does admit that he was up the tree, but says that he was just playing in the tree, but not stuck. It looks to me like both sides are spinning things. Reading between the lines, it looks to me like we have a child who stayed out during a break when he wasn't supposed to and played in a tree. The school is basically saying that they were aware of the child being out there and just left him to his own devices. Meanwhile, a woman walking by the playground notices that there's a child up a tree, after the break with no immediate supervision and jumps to the conclusion (justifiably in my opinion) that the child has probably become stuck up the tree and wasn't able to come inside when the break was over and no teachers spotted him. So, she comes into the school to see what's going on and approaches the child who, according to the schools version, is at this point down from the tree. She approaches the child, he doesn't want to talk to strangers (or maybe he has no negative reaction to her, but part of the schools spin is that he was scared of the big bad stranger) and, at this point, a number of school employees swarm up and want to know what she's doing there, etc. So, they're upset because she's just crashed through their elaborate security (4 foot high fence, plus she didn't check in at the office first, by the sound of it) and jump into CYA mode and start calling her a trespasser, demanding what does she think she's doing, we're calling the police, etc. She gets upset that they're treating her like some sort of child molesting monster just for trying to help and leaves over a padlocked gate (obviously a psychological barrier rather than a physical one, obviously healthy adults have no problem crossing it, and I'm sure tree climbing 5 year olds can get over it even more easily). From her point of view, what's just happened is that she's gone in to try to help this child that was up a tree, seemed to be stuck, and no-one was helping. From their point of view, they've just had this trespasser, not following proper procedures. She and the press blow the child trapped in a tree and no school employees around to help thing out of proportion. The school goes into CYA mode and tries to make her sound as bad as they can.

Ultimately, the school let a child stay outside playing by himself when everyone else went inside. This seems a little odd based on my own school experiences, but doesn't actually ring alarm bells. How they want to structure the school day and what exceptions they're willing to allow aren't my business, it's between them and the childrens parents. They say they were watching, and since they spotted this woman approaching him, so I tend to believe that they were watching, at least intermittently. She says she was just trying to help and was concerned because he was unsupervised and in a tree. Whether he was stuck or not, or even appeared stuck, I still agree that her concern was not a bad thing. Probably, if she'd just gone to the office and said "Do you know there's a child all alone out there in a tree?" this would not have become a news story. In any case, it looks like she overreacted to the school leaving the boy out there, which probably never would have happened if they hadn't overreacted to her coming to help.

Also, a thought on the responsibility of the schools actions. If the world is really so full of evil strangers wanting to harm children, then it was incredibly irresponsible of the school to leave a child out alone playing by himself. A child grabber could have pulled him over the fence and into an unmarked van before they could have reacted. For that matter, since this woman was able to reach him and talk to him before someone came up to her, a child slasher could have already been wearing his entrails as a turban before they reacted. If, however, there are actually a very small number of people out there with such malevolence, then most strangers who approach children and claim to be trying to help are probably trying to help. In other words, flipping out at the woman the way it sounds like they did is not consistent with the logic of leaving the child out there in the first place.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

kylemonger (686302) | about 4 years ago | (#31681358)

There's another side to the story, but why should we believe it? There are still unanswered questions. Is there a policy to leave kids stuck in a tree? Are the school staff lying to cover up malfeasance? Mindlessly believing a rebuttal is no better than mindlessly believing the original story. The government involved cannot be trusted. An international human rights tribunal is the only way we'll ever learn the truth about what happened to that distressed little boy.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 4 years ago | (#31702462)

There's a foolproof way if determining the truth: if the Daily Mail says it is true, then it is false. If the Daily Mail says it is false, it is true.

This is 100% accurate.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

Dewin (989206) | about 4 years ago | (#31752810)

There's a foolproof way if determining the truth: if the Daily Mail says it is true, then it is false. If the Daily Mail says it is false, it is true.

This is 100% accurate.

And if they publish a story claiming all of their stories are false? What then?

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

DavidTC (10147) | about 4 years ago | (#31706120)

We have no evidence the kid was 'stuck' at all.

For all we know he simply didn't want to come in, and the school didn't force the issue (As attempting to pull someone out of a tree can, in fact, be dangerous.), but left him out there with someone keeping an eye on him out the window.

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (1)

cheezegeezer (1765936) | about 4 years ago | (#31684884)

Have you had a GOOD read of that lot total drivel more like a case of Oh shit we been caught with our knickers around our ankles lets see if we cant crap on this

Re:This is the essence of Lawful Stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31654316)

The reason for this is overly strict laws involving children and overly strict law enforcement officers relating to those laws. You are looking at the country where adults will ignore a crying child in public if it isn't theirs for fear of prosecution. The teachers refuse to touch the children because they don't want to risk being accused of attempting to molest them.

Society has reached a point where paranoia has outweighed our common sense, its tragic. In the name of protecting our children we've come to the point where we are afraid to actually help the children.

Good morning, Worm, your honour (3, Funny)

headbone (914314) | about 4 years ago | (#31633658)

The crown will plainly show the prisoner who now stands before you was caught red-handed showing feelings of an almost human nature. This will not do.

Re:Good morning, Worm, your honour (1)

plover (150551) | about 4 years ago | (#31635982)

I always said he'd come to no good in the end, your Honor. If they'd let me have my way I would have flayed him into shape! But the bleedin' hearts and the artists let him get away with tree climbin'! Let him hang up there today!

So the staff can safely observe when... (1)

cmdrwhitewolf (580710) | about 4 years ago | (#31637108)

The student promptly falls out of the tree - there's nobody around to blame *or* get fallen on! (The win-win scenario)
"Remember the safety of our staff... um, students is paramount!" (the OSHA style scenario)

Re:So the staff can safely observe when... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 years ago | (#31639674)

So if a student falls out of a tree in a forest when there's nobody there, can anybody hear him scream?

Re:So the staff can safely observe when... (2, Insightful)

dudpixel (1429789) | about 4 years ago | (#31652822)

duh, you worded it wrong. Of course no one can hear him if there's no one there.

The correct line would be:

"If a boy falls out of a tree in a forest, and no one heard him, did he make a sound?"

Re:So the staff can safely observe when... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 years ago | (#31653316)

If someone does hear him, is that person automatically a pedio^H peado^H kiddy fiddler?

Re:So the staff can safely observe when... (2, Funny)

gnapster (1401889) | about 4 years ago | (#31653490)

The correct line when filling out a Risk Assessment in the UK is, "If a boy falls out of a tree in a forest, and no one heard him, is there any way that anyone could be held liable?"

Re:So the staff can safely observe when... (1)

edittard (805475) | about 4 years ago | (#31655006)

Of course no one can hear him if there's no one there.

Indeed - there'd be nothing to hear. Nonexistent people are very quiet, even when plummeting from arboreal vegetation.

Daily Mail (1)

turgid (580780) | about 4 years ago | (#31639912)

Ho hum: an anti-Health and Safety story from the Daily Mail. I suppose immigrants, asylum seekers, gays, liberals ans women were also involved in this?

That seems reasonable to me (1)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | about 4 years ago | (#31642812)

In my experience, the standard response for a child climbing up a tree and being scared to come down is to reassure the child, "If you can climb up, you can climb down." The child will eventually calm down and climb down. It's when someone else tries to climb up the tree and "help" that you get real problems. And if it's some random passerby, you can't just assume they're okay.

Re:That seems reasonable to me (1)

sammyF70 (1154563) | about 4 years ago | (#31647920)

yes .. definitely the best course of action. To avoid being fallen on, they even went to the length of going inside and were probably just looking for a megaphone to safely shout at the kid "GET DOWN THAT TREE NOW!" from a distance.

Not letting the facts get in the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31646170)

The article does not say the boy was stuck up the tree.

It says he was refusing to come down. That changes the interpretation entirely.

An air rifle would have done the job, but apparently that is not allowed any more.

Re:Not letting the facts get in the way... (1)

azalin (67640) | about 4 years ago | (#31668394)

Actually, by the time his "rescuer" reached him he was already standing on the ground and didn't really want to talk to this strange woman who climbed over the fence for whatever reason. After being addressed by staff on issues of "what are you doing here" she got very excited and ran away (over the fence again).
The mother of said boy seems to be quite happy on how the staff reacted and that his "rescuer" was not able to scare him any more than she did.
Citation? A few posts down by harryjohnston...
Good example of staff did their work perfectly, weird stranger comes by, gets questioned and the school has newspapers coming down like hyenas on them.

Thats what happens when lawyers get involved (1)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | about 4 years ago | (#31646530)

I recently ran into a situation where ... having around a hundred chairs that would need to be moved around quickly during a function, I asked the hotel for a chair dolly. It was refused on 'safety' grounds... Lawyers had determined that, if they lent us the equipment they would be responsible if our volunteers hurt themselves with it.

So our volunteers were left slinging the chairs around by hand.

For our next function, we used a different hotel.

Re:Thats what happens when lawyers get involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31653586)

Too bad none of your volunteers didn't pull their back while moving so many chairs. That could have been grounds for a very ironic lawsuit.

School has different story (2, Informative)

harryjohnston (1118069) | about 4 years ago | (#31664466)

The school in question reports the incident rather differently [learningto...ning.co.uk] .

Re:School has different story (1)

azalin (67640) | about 4 years ago | (#31668344)

Very interesting to see the difference between the news story (and the comments here) and what really happened.

Re:School has different story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31682484)

Very interesting to see the difference between the news story (and the comments here) and what really happened.

Why are you assuming the school's version is a true representation of the facts?

Re:School has different story (1)

DavidTC (10147) | about 4 years ago | (#31706156)

Because this story is from the Daily Mail.

American readers often are not aware that is England's rather right-wing version of the National Enquirer.

Re:School has different story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31719364)

You'll note, however, that at no point do they actually deny that their policy is to leave the child alone and not help them down.

They quibble about the facts, but they don't state what their actual policy is, regarding helping children who are hurt or stuck.

Therefore, it would seem that this is an actual policy, and they are just attempting to distract people from the fact.

(Even if it happened as they said, the statements about leaving children because of health and safety policy were almost certainly the statements given to the mother who attempted to intervene, when challenged by the teacher, Mr. Hester. They still haven't denied this).

You really need to read more politician's statements. They love weasel words and communications like this. If you don't stick to the actual point, you can be easily misled by them.

Rescued? (1)

residieu (577863) | about 4 years ago | (#31691018)

I wouldn't say she rescued him. The boy didn't want to come down, there was no indication that he needed help getting down. Trying to forcibly get a child out of a tree when he doesn't want to leave is definitely dangerous, and instead deciding to observe and wait for him to come down himself isn't an outrageous way to handle it.

"Helping" him down (1)

cypherdtraitor (1448243) | about 4 years ago | (#31692804)

Is it a purely southern phenomenon that, when a child is afraid to come down from a tree, you encourage them to come down by throwing things at them? The passerby could have done worse...

just. wow (1)

merockstar (1718498) | about 4 years ago | (#31744988)

Does anybody happen to know of a nerd oriented news website similar to this one that isn't terrible? Between this story and the story about smokers having lower IQs, I think I officially just quit slashdot.

Makes perfect sense.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#31746706)

What if the child was to fall while you were rescuing him? Who knows what sort of trouble you could get into.

Knowing this, would you volunteer to help him down? Would you feel comfortable telling somebody else to get him down...?

The days of "loco parentis" are long dead. Long live the lawyers!

I've seen it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31748422)

When I was a child, a classmate of mine climbed a tree and got stuck. As soon as she was noticed, a teacher called the fire department's non-emergency number, and they showed up with a ladder truck to help her out. Aside from an embarrassment that wore off quickly, she escaped with no injuries.

I'm not sure if there was any policy, but the teacher probably realized this was the best way to go. The girl in the tree was in good health, in no danger of dehydration, and had no problem waiting for the fire department to show up. From a safety standpoint, it was probably a lot safer than getting the building supervisor to show up with an extension ladder.

So, um, couldn't the teacher in this case have called for help?

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