Written by Michael Cummings on October 31, 2014

You can’t bite a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.

You can’t point a cap gun at anyone.

You can’t play on playground equipment because they’re taking it away from you.

When someone sneezes, you can’t say God bless you.

Kids are not allowed to be kids. Every day it seems a new story of our declining American culture surfaces where a twitchy person in power reacts with the all the wisdom of …well, a child. New signs, new rules, and new laws are put in place to make kids safer.
Most would agree these cuts into our liberty are making America worse. But who is really to blame?

We can point to bus drivers, teachers, playground monitors, and administrators because they’re the ones with direct contact with children on a regular basis. These people infuriate the rest of us when they see kids being kids and immediately report them to the principal and police, sometimes the latter before the former. But are these people entirely at fault?

Step back and ask yourself why, when a child gets hurt, a school or district takes drastic measures such as removing playground equipment, canceling dodge-ball, or setting up broad sweeping, zero-tolerance policies that ensnare the most petty of infractions. Like most things, follow the money. In this discussion, follow the lawyers.

In 2010, the Long Beach Unified School District (California) paid over $2.3 million in litigation. While it’s a safe bet there were legitimate cases in that payout, would you be surprised to know that within the entire California school system, an average of 83% of the payouts went to law firms and not the plaintiffs?

If a district doesn’t want to pay those high legal fees, they can mitigate some of that with liability insurance. A risk management expert told me it’s easy for a school district to pay over a million dollars a year for liability insurance depending on deductibles, payout limitations, locations, and other factors. The same expert also told me school hallways are plastered with PSA type posters that are either a result of a lawsuit or an attempt to avoid one. So when you see a new rule pop up that on its surface appears to make no sense, blame a school avoiding costs, and blame the lawyers making everything cost more.

Of course there are real consequences to this problem, and they are being felt by the communities surrounding the school districts. If a district is forced to pay legal fees, it cannot afford to pay other expenses. Why do you think supposed chump change tax increases appear in virtually every election cycle, to pay for our schools. Hey, it’s just another 50 cents per person, right? Why are parents increasingly required to pay more for more sports fee, equipment, and school supplies when years ago this wasn’t heard of? After legal fees, liability insurance, paying teachers unions and donating to Democrat causes (yes, those last two were a dig), school districts don’t have much money for standard operating expenses.

This problem isn’t limited to physical structures or games that might cause harm, but actually saying “God bless you” when a student sneezes or praying before lunch. Yes, people can and do sue when they’re offended. Didn’t you know that?

Also, this problem is not limited to schools. Why do you think healthcare is so expensive? In 2007, a doctor in Miami-Dade county paid $275,466 annually for malpractice insurance. Overall, it now takes upwards of $5 billion to bring a single drug to market. Do you suppose greed-based litigation has something to do with that?

Tort reform is not a frivolous campaign platform that we can talk about later. It’s real, it’s necessary, and it’s on my list of priorities for any candidate I vote for. So, tort lawyers, I’m gunning for you. Your cottage industry is one of my primary targets whether I someday run for office or can influence someone who does. Make the money you can now on cases like suing Red Bull because it doesn’t actually have more caffeine than some coffee. If I have anything to do about it, your days are numbered.



Michael Cummings
Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.