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The Haze of Summer

Seasonal Chores and Seemingly Fun Activities Carry Risks

Dave Arnold

On the last day of school, I always hear one of our teachers say to the students, "Have a good summer. Be careful. I'll see you in a few months."


If only students would remember to be careful.

Sure, summer's a fun time for students. They get to ride bikes, swim in lakes, and read books, maybe while perched in a tree.

Unfortunately, some carefree activities carry risks.

Within days after school let out this year, I heard on the news that an 11-year-old boy was riding his bicycle when he was struck by car driven by a 16-year-old girl. The boy is in critical condition at this time. Even worse, soon after that, I heard that a 10-year-old boy was killed while riding his bicycle.

When I hear stories like this, I can only wish that these children had been more careful.

Hard Lesson Learned

Last year, after one of my neighbors graduated from high school, he began building a car that he planned to race on a track. He reported to a job at night and to his beloved race car during the day. He received numerous warnings and cautious advice about this dubious pursuit from parents, relatives, and friends, me included.

My house is located somewhat near the track. On the night of his first race, I heard the sound of fire trucks and ambulances rushing to the event. Then a medical helicopter flew by.

I hoped that whoever was hurt would be okay, but mostly I hoped that it didn't involve my young neighbor. Unfortunately, it did. His new race car had gotten hit with such a force that it exploded into a fireball. He received third-and second-degree burns over the majority of his body.

He spent several months in the hospital, and recently returned to work. We in the neighborhood are all grateful for his recovery, but remain concerned about future summertime tragedies, including those that befall adults.

Beware of Ladders

Teachers and support staff can also fall victim. Or, should I say, can become victims of a fall. A few years ago, a teacher friend of mine was building a new garage for his truck and trailer. Things were looking good until his foot slipped and he fell off his ladder. He suffered a concussion and broke an arm and three ribs.

House repair can be dangerous, despite the friendly setting of a bright summer sky. Last Memorial Day weekend, one of our school bus drivers was on her roof cleaning the gutters. Jane Scott, 44, slipped and fell backward over her ladder to the ground. She landed on her back and is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors tell her that they doubt she will ever walk again.

Jane is a fighter and loyal member of the Brownstown Education Support Professional Association of Illinois. After starting therapy, she says that things could be worse. She is home now, on a year's leave of absence.

Learn the Risks

Too often, we hurry ourselves into peril. Young and old alike, we sometimes ignore the dangers that often accompany ostensibly fun activities, especially those outside our normal routine. Climbing ladders, firing up grilles, and popping firecrackers on the Fourth of July can take a toll if we are not just a little cautious.

A few months before I went hunting in the mountains of Colorado, I began working out on a treadmill and walking as much as possible. On the trip, I still ran short of breath in the high mountain altitude, but I didn't tire out while climbing the steep terrain. I had prepared myself for the task as best I could. I also studied maps and guidebooks.

It was an enjoyable outing, and I wish you the same for summer. Stare at the stars. Soak up some sun. Swim in the ocean and walk on the beach. But be careful. Your students need to see you in a few months.

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.

Dave's View has been discontinued following the retirement of its author, Dave Arnold. Even though new columns will not be posted, we encourage you to review past columns.