Tragedy should not be forgotten

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The little gym along Apple Street has hosted many happy moments since it was added to Mark Twain School a little over 30 years ago. It has served as a place where Poplar Bluff’s young students ate lunch, played games and waited for their parents. Countless number of elementary, kindergarten and now early childhood students spent time there.

The multipurpose room has been closed off for two weeks since a Friday morning when a 4-year-old was struck by a wall-mounted table and died.

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. An unspeakable tragedy that breaks our hearts.

How could this happen? Is my child safe?

Not only are these types of tables in every elementary school in the district, they are used all over the country.

As a precaution, Poplar Bluff R-1 schools removed the wall-mounted tables from the Early Childhood Center and the ones at O’Neal Elementary that were manufactured by the same company at the same time. Those older tables were rarely lowered and used since the district had replaced them with newer versions as improvements and additions were made to the buildings.

The remaining wall-mounted tables were also inspected. As with any product, improvements are made over time but as an added safety measure, the school installed chains to prevent the tables from falling should the latches that keep them in place fail.

Why was this not done before?

For one, wall-mounted tables were considered safer than their fold-up, roll-away cousins that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned about in 1989 when every school in the nation got warning labels. In the 20 years after that, nine deaths and 14 injuries were reportedly caused by fold-up cafeteria tables tipping over.

We found three deaths in the last two decades related to wall-mounted tables at schools, while the CPSC reports that one child dies every two weeks at home when a television, furniture or appliance falls on them. The district said a check of its records showed one incident with wall-mounted tables that was not related to the equipment itself or involved students.

While the focus of school safety has been on preventing weapons from getting in, school districts have been tasked with keeping up aging buildings and equipment.

With the community’s help, R-1 has been proactive in replacing and maintaining its buildings. A new home for the Early Childhood Center is being built and Mark Twain School, which opened in 1951, will still be used by the district in the future.

As the kids were enjoying their Valentine’s Day treats Thursday at the Early Childhood Center, work was continuing inside the multipurpose room to welcome the students back.

We hope the little gym along Apple Street will again be a happy place for our kids and this lesson it has taught us is not forgotten. That this tragedy is not forgotten.

— Daily American Republic

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