Efforts to open school playgrounds to kids for after hours play have been thwarted in recent years because schools fear being sued, but supporters have a strong new ally.
School playgrounds like this one make for great fun during the day, but often times kids find themselves fenced and locked after hours.
Jacksonville Jaguar Cornerback Alan Ball wants to change that. “I’m going to make myself available no matter what.” He spend the day walking the hallways of the State Capitol hallways trying to open the playgrounds and give kids a place to go.
“They don’t understand why they can’t go to that playground. To them it’s what’s the alternative. And to a lot of kids, the alternative is lets go home and play video games, or lets go text each other on the iPhone, or lets go play on our tablet.”
Ball is volunteering his time as part of the NFL’s Play 60 Program. Legislation to open the playgrounds has passed the House for two years in a row, but never gotten a hearing in the Senate.
What has derailed the legislation in the past is school districts fear of being sued, sued for anything and everything.
Under the legislation, schools won’t be forced to open the playgrounds, but if they do, the possibility of being sued will be reduced unless they commit gross negligence.
David Francis of the American Heart Association Southeast says the group has made the playground legislation a top priority. “We have publicly funded taxpayer playgrounds in these high schools and public schools, and they are in these neighborhoods that are not being utilized...and we’re paying for them and they should be open to the public.”
And Cornerback Ball hopes opening school playgrounds and his status as a role model will inspire kids to drop their gaming devices and play actual games for a change.
If the legislation passes, school facilities could be open to the public as early as this fall.