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Mother: School bathroom doors a safety hazard

Original post made on Oct 5, 2011

The mother of a Palo Alto boy whose fingertip was severed after being caught in a school restroom door says the doors present "a real safety issue for Palo Alto students."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 5, 2011, 9:53 AM

Comments (75)

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:19 am

Playing tag in the restrooms sounds like the kid was out of control and we can't be a complete nanny state with cameras viewing kids in the bathroom to "keep them under control at all times" - hey, that would infringe on our privacy and be outrageous! - to determine if they are running around or not. A teacher can't stand there either.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by AMRW
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

To me, this sounds like an unfortunate accident, not a "real safety issue for Palo Alto students". Children have accidents, adults have accidents. Sometimes there is no blame to be placed except on misfortune.

It feels like our society is constantly looking for someone else to blame in situations like this. Blame misfortune and don't make PAUSD pay $10,000 because you don't have insurance. If this happened at a friends house, would you sue your friend for $10,000?


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Posted by Fellow parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:30 am

Sounds like just a freak accident. They just happen. I'm sorry for the family and hope they can move forward.


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Posted by The Truth
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

Wow!!!
Sorry the student went through all that pain BUT THE VOICE OF REASON TELLS ME that responsibility lies with kids goofing around in bathroom. Typical enabling by parents, let's blame school and not have kids take responsibility for actions which lead to consequences.


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Posted by another PAUSD parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

I sympathize with the family in having to drop their health insurance. We do not have health insurance through work and the monthly premium for our family of 4 is also outrageous.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

this is not a palo alto issue, nor is it an insurance issue. 15,000 children have fingers amputated yearly in the US by heavy sharp doors. safety devices should be standard at elementary schools.


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Posted by South of Midtown Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

South of Midtown Mom is a registered user.

Someone said if this happened at a friend's house, would you sue the friend, and I think the answer would be that the homeowner's insurance would pick up the tab if health insurance did not.

I also think that some are missing the more important point here- It has been said outside this forum that this was not the first incident with this door. Therefore there is a foreseeability of harm issue here. This door apparently is not a "safety" door and the school district should replace it with a safe one. Obviously, they might have a bias against doing so at the immediate moment, because it would make them appear to be scrambling after the accident and seem at fault. The reality is, however, that failing to do anything lacks public responsibility.

It is certainly true that they cannot be babysitting our kids every single minute, but they do have a responsibility to make sure the structure and contents don't pose any obvious risk to our kids. We need to replace this door.

p.s. Whoever came up with the idea of seeking damages from the parents of the kid who slammed the door was also spot on. This would be a good solution for the uninsured family and does happen very often. (which is why my family has a hearty umbrella policy in place!) There is a famous case where a young boy of 7 pulled a chair out from under an older woman, thinking he was being funny. She fractured a hip. Guess what? He (therefore his parents) were liable under the civil theory of battery, not even mere negligence!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:43 am

Perhaps this is more a story of overcrowded schools?

Kids should not be playing tag in bathrooms, but kids do. If there were enough playground supervisors for the number of kids in our elementary schools, it would be possible to monitor what the kids are up to better.

How many kids at Fairmeadow? How many lunchtime supervisors? Is there a recognized ratio of monitors to kids for playground supervision at either the State or District level?

What other unsafe practices are carried on at lunchtimes in our schools on a daily basis? I don't think we can outlaw all games of tag or other activities because kids are kids and kids need to be kids. But there are obvious dangerous activities which should be outlawed, such as playing active games in bathrooms or jumping off the top of playstructures or roofs. If we don't have enough adult supervision in the playgrounds, then these sorts of activities will happen.

I know it comes down to money (always does). But overcrowding schools mean kids not having enough space to run and play outside. 11 year old boys need to be able to run, hide from friends and play secure from running into 6 year olds. Both groups need to be able to play age appropriate games not being told to be careful of the younger/older kids who might get in the way.





I think these are the questions we should be asking.


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Posted by Fairmeadow Newsletter recipient
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:49 am

Expect the world to safety-proof everything your children touch? At some point, people have to learn some self-restraint and learn to watch out for themselves.

"I cut off my finger when I stuck it between the bathroom door and the wall and now the school district won't redo all its bathrooms in rubber and foam." r/firstworldproblems


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:54 am

ninadora is a registered user.

thank you for your supportive comments. we have no interest in suing anybody. we asked for help with the bill, but we are more importantly demanding that the forced-closing door be changed to prevent further injury to other children. after they officially rejected the idea of safer doors yesterday, i contacted the post which had already contacted the school district about the incident. our sons are now at JLS, where all bathrooms have "soft-closing doors" which make an amputation injury impossible. the boy who closed the door is not at fault whatsoever, and it was not slammed. neither boy had ever been in trouble or had ever been reprimanded at school for any behavior issues. there was no ill-will whatsoever. after the incident, the doors were propped open with cones for some time, which is no solution, as the urinals were visible from the courtyard. i do not want to hear about another lost finger at Fairmeadow. Period. change that damned door!


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Posted by Local mom
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

If the door is a known hazard, can we please get it fixed? Yes, boys will be boys, and we can expect the rough housing to continue, so I don't think it's unreasonable to fix a door that has already seriously injured a kid. When I had kids, we baby-proofed the house so they could be safe when they played and explored. It's an elementary school. Not really the place for finger-slicing bathroom doors.


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Posted by South of Midtown Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:59 am

South of Midtown Mom is a registered user.

I think that was a bit unfair Fairmeadow parent. When products that children use are deemed unfair by variously regulatory bodies or because of reported injuries, they are recalled- an example that comes to mind are the cribs with the wide slats. They were pulled from the market. We expect a certain standard of safety to exist. If there were in fact previous injuries from this same door and this door, unlike the majority of the doors is not a child-safe door, why?! The school had an obligation to replace it. I'm sure that parents would have gladly contributed to the cause.

Sure we have to accept responsibility for our actions and playing in the bathroom is not appropriate, but the reality is that the laws in the United States are tailored to recognize that once a harm is foreseeable, (regardless of whether the action is appropriate) then one has a duty to prevent subsequent harms. I didn't create this standard- it is a long standing legal standard. A great example is the foreseeable trespasser, which is why one has an obligation to put a fence around one's pool. A child could be enticed to enter and drown, even though the child has no business being in your yard in the first place. This door issue is no different.


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Posted by Joey
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:02 am

Isn't the real problem here with the parents who, with young kids in the house, decided to let their health insurance expire? As a parent, regardless of what it costs, I would think health insurance would be one of the last things I would totally drop.

What happens if it was something much worse, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than $10k (not to belittle $10k, mind you)?

Yes, health insurance is expensive and yes something needs to be done to get the cost down, but to put that cost onto us (who do you think paid that bill if they can't/won't) is just wrong.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:10 am

The bathroom doors at Fairmeadow are not the same ones with the safety mechanism as in other Palo Alto schools. It should certainly be fixed before this happens again.


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Posted by Julia
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

Joey: I personally think that health care is a right, not a privilege. Until, we as a nation "get that," we will have many stories of people who could not afford to keep their insurance or who were not able to get insurance. For example, what if you are self-employed and more than willing to pay for an individual/family plan but disqualified because you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or whatever. It happens all the time. We have a friend who works as a consultant and was not able to get an individual health plan because he was deemed a high risk by Kaiser and Blue Shield. He had the ability to pay, but no one would take him! He finally found some high risk pool that is managed by the state, but it doesn't really provide much coverage other than catastrophic coverage and is obviously very expensive.

So, I think we should refrain from judgment on why this woman or others don't have the coverage and instead work to put pressure on insurers to expand access to coverage. We do this with car insurance- we have options for how much coverage we take on and everyone is entitled to basic coverage. Why should health care be different?


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

The doors at Fairmeadow need to be looked at and changed. Things in our schools should be safer for all our children. There is a need of an investigation, and if the boy was hurt because of the door, yes, this family should be helped.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

The doors need to be re-examined for safety, the family's medical bills need to be covered by the district liability insurance. I am shocked at the inadequate level of school involvement post incident.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:24 am

Every door in every building is a potential danger. That is the reality of modern day living. Should we put safety devices on every door at every classroom?

My kid had the front door slam on his finger a few years ago - should I sue or ask the house builder to reimburse my out of pocket medical costs?

What is reasonable responsibility? (Rhetorical question).

From the other thread I got the distinct impression that the other kid involved in this accident had some if not a majority of the responsibility in the injury. Has the parent considered asking the other family to take responsibility for their son's accidental behavior?

I do not wish to be harsh or hard - but kids will always find a way to fool around and cause accidents that may or may not end up in an injury. It happens.

Hazard or not - the kids messing around are the first ones to be responsible in this case.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

2 hard lessons here

(1) Kids: Goofing around can lead to accidents in any environment.

(2) Parents: everyone needs insurance, especially folks with children. Eliminate all extras, like restaurants. Shop around for health insurance, perhaps COBRA?


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

ninadora is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, correction: not every door is a hazard. other PAUSD schools do not have the forced-closing mechanism and sharp brass hardware at kid-level, but rather soft-closing mechanism, making a finger amputation accident impossible. We are talking about an elementary school where kids are as young as 5 years old and safety IS an issue.


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Posted by grandparent now
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

Something similar happened to my son, in a very caring private pre-school, when we lived in southern California. Another child slammed the door on his finger. Happily it was not severed, only broken or sprained. (can't remember because he also injured a finger in a high school weight room when he was with his father who was playing basketball there) I agree these doors are a hazard, but so are parents who aren't supervising kids. However, you can hardly expect parents to supervise kids in school restrooms. And the point is kids have accidents and get sick and insurance is a MUST. Kid insurance is usually very reasonable and a godsend if there is accidental injury.
Years ago at a PAUSD elementary site, my daughter tripped and got a nasty laceration on a piece of vertical, rusty steel rebar that was holding the concrete form for a new sidewalk that had been poured. Should have never happened, should have been flagged off with orange tape. I should have sued . . . I think I complained but nobody at the site or 25 Churchill cared . . .


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Posted by Julia
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

@neighbor: Did you read my above post? You can shop around for health insurance all you like, but if you are not eligible for COBRA or cannot qualify for an individual/family plan due to any number of medical conditions, you have very limited, if any, options. I think your statement was a bit naive? You do know that insurers presently have zero obligation to accept you on an individual/family plan, which is very different from employer sponsored plans, if your company has one.

@Crescent Park dad: 1) I think you missed the bit about this door not being like all the other safety doors that have been installed and previous injuries from this door, before this boy lost part of his finger. 2) You asked about reasonable responsibility- If you are asking about legal responsibility with respect to negligence, I have a hard time not finding that all the elements are met: 1) The school had a duty to make sure the door was safe, given that there were prior injuries to other children from this door, which, unlike other doors on site was not a soft-hinged door, 2) they breached their duty when they failed to take corrective action in installing a door like the others that have the safety feature and but for this breach in their duty, 3) caused the severed finger to the child.

Finally- I'm getting redundant, but just as you have a responsibility to fence the pool in your yard to prevent drownings even though no one should be in your yard uninvited. Similarly, the school has a responsibility to make sure that the doors have soft hinges, even though kids should not be playing in or around them. The reason this is so is because the harm in both instances is foreseeable. If you don't like it, take it up with the legislature, because this is the legal standard for negligence under California law.


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Posted by Denese
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

Wow again look at the comments and the heartless of some of the Palo Altains. We are in some ruff times and there are a lot of people suffering without insurance. This family was just put in a horrible situation and the child as well.
Have a heart Palo Alto, you don't know what this family and many others are going through financially. The school district could pick up the cost. Look at how much money is wasted on other things.

Wow!


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Posted by accidents happen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:52 am

What I don't get is why someone would live in Palo Alto and not have health insurance. My finances are somewhat wobbly, but I have health insurance because it is fundamentally important - accidents happen! If I get to the point where I feel I can't afford health insurance any more, I'll move to a place with a lower cost of living. That doesn't mean a lower standard of living. Seriously, if you can't afford health insurance, why are you living in one of the most expensive places in the country?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:56 am

According to the story written by the mom on this other thread: Web Link

"They asked Peter what had happened, and Peter told them that at lunchtime, his friend at school accidentally closed the bathroom stall door where he didn't realize his finger was, and the door chopped his finger off."

But above, it claims the door is self-closing and the other child was not at fault.

So did the door cut is finger or the child pushing the door on the child's finger?

Either way, it's honorable for the mom to publicize this to help prevent future accidents because it really is not her problem since her child is at JLS now.

Can PiE pay for new doors?


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Posted by Fairmeadow parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

One of my children had a finger seriously injured in kindergarten at Fairmeadow a few years ago. The kindergarten bathroom door is a very heavy fire door that closed on its own. My child's fingertip was stitched together, but is still numb making it more difficult to write correctly. I brought up this hazard during site committee meetings for future planning, and got no support to address this hazard. I hope this hazard is addressed soon.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I'm so annoyed with the posts on here that are accusatory relating to this woman not having health insurance. First of all, I think that the people writing these posts have no real understanding about how health insurance works. If you are not an employee of a large enough employer, you may not be offered insurance at all. If you are not, or if you are self-employed and you seek coverage on your own, you are subject to a health review by the insurers and it is very easy to not qualify. If you read the other thread on here, someone said their 8 year old son was disqualified for an individual plan because of an ADHD diagnosis. ADHD is high risk for an insurance plan?! So, don't just assume that money is preventing coverage. Sometimes, it is that one cannot find an insurer that will cover them!

I'm with all the parents who suggested PIE should pay for the new door. If there are doors like this one at other schools, we should replace them too. How many injuries is it going to take before PAUSD is willing to do something? Sheesh.


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Posted by PAUSD family
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I agree with Ada above. "The doors need to be re-examined for safety, the family's medical bills need to be covered by the district liability insurance."

The district self-insures, I think, but as so many above like to point out, things happen. That's what this kind of set aside is for. Whether the family had insurance or not is irrelevant. If you have insurance, the copays have a magic way for ending up just as high.

As for posters taking the view that accidents happen and these kids just have to protect themselves, I would remind them that not so long ago in America, most kids didn't survive even to that age, much less to adulthood. We thankfully have the luxury of a modern world with a different standard.

PAUSD: Bring the doors up to the standard of the rest of the district, and if there are any other places that need this kind of safety improvement, do it there. We have the money, this isn't a huge expense, either. Pay the family's medical bills. I frankly can't believe the bills are so low given what happened. They aren't asking anything unreasonable, and it sets things right. Show the kids that good things can come out of bad. Do the right thing, and move on.


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Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I am appalled at the PAUSD for refusing to do anything about this....either reimbursing the parents for medical costs or fixing the doors of the bathrooms. I had a finger munched in a door at a church as a child....I still remember it as one of the most excruciatingly painful injuries I have ever endured. I, fortunately, did not need any medical attention nor did I lose any part of my finger. It was clearly my fault for having my finger in the wrong place when another child closed the door on it. That can happen with any door. I was blessed to have been born into a family that could afford to have their children insured for medical expenses and for that I am most grateful. In the case of the bathroom door, if there is a fix that could prevent future injuries there is no excuse for the PAUSD not fixing the doors. I imagine that if it is a highly expensive fix and the district would have to do every bathroom stall door in the district they could be balking at the cost of this fix. I sympathize with the mother and can well imagine what it must be like having to give up medical insurance due to the costliness of it. I agree with Julia I think basic health care is should be available to all regardless of their financial circumstances. Joey's comments above are coming from a place of making assumptions about a families financial resources. Neighbor: What makes you assume that this family indulges in "extras" that they should give up. Perhaps they are paycheck to paycheck. Would you have them give up their basic food and housing expenses to pay for health insurance? Please don't make assumptions about others. Have some compassion. I think the doors should be fixed if the district can find the money to do so before another incident occurs that could cause them to have to pay much more than 10K. I am sure that the district's insurance can pay for this students injury and they should pay for it. That's what they carry insurance for. The parents request is not unreasonable.


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

"PAUSD family" nicely summed it up.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Insurance coverage for students is available for $139 a month. Check th PAUSD site - her is a link Web Link


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Posted by Lisa P Smith in NY
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

This blaming of the victim is shameful! Without a doubt this is a *safety* issue.

Let me explain, this is NOT an insurance issue. Even if the family had health insurance, the the health insurance co. would have surely declined to cover the related medical expenses since it was an *accident* that occurred at school. THIS very thing happened to us! In elementary school, our daughter suffered a skull fracture from a ball that was thrown as she ran onto base, during a PE game. Our nearly $1500/mo Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO Insurance Co. *repeatedly refused* to cover the CT scan, etc. -- stating that since it was an *accident* that occurred at school, during class activities, that it was the obligation of the school system's insurance company to pay for the medical expenses.

Bottom Line: The school system has a legal and moral responsibility to keep their students safe.

Bravo to this courageous mother for standing up and doing the right thing! She's my hero!

This child and family have already been through enough--they should be reimbursed for their medical expenses, and the school system needs to adjust, or replace, the stall door hinges to prevent other accidents from occurring.


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

@Palo Alto Mom: I vaguely recall seeing the flier for that program when I registered my son. I think it is a really good option for families who cannot obtain coverage with an individual/family plan, who may not have access to a group plan, or who cannot afford coverage for the whole family. It looks like it doesn't cover preventative care, which is too bad, but certainly would have helped this woman.

Again, while it is a tangent, I cannot stress enough that I firmly believe that health care is a right. My husband is British and when I visit his 92 year old father, I am always amazed at how well he is cared for and has very little that he pays out of pocket. He has someone that comes to his home everyday to help get him dressed, take him shopping, pick up his prescriptions, etc. He has had no problems getting MRI's and bone scans for his transitional cell carcinoma....I don't understand how we can have such amazing progress in this country and allow so many people to fend for themselves in this arena. Who decided that health care was a privilege for only those that could afford it?! Seems selfish to me.


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Posted by Thanks
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

To ninadora,
First of all I admired you for trying to make things safer for our kids. I just can't believe the comments that some people posted here. Let me tell you that it is not going to be easy to make the district officials change the door because they do not want to assume responsibility, but you should keep going and not give up. At the end it will be worth it because you might be saving another child (perhaps as son or daughter of the people who posted such us heartless comments) from having a worst accident than the one your son had. In the name of the students, Thanks, it takes a lot of guts to do this.


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Posted by Thanks
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

To ninadora,
First of all I admired you for trying to make things safer for our kids. I just can't believe the comments that some people posted here. Let me tell you that it is not going to be easy to make the district officials change the door because they do not want to assume responsibility, but you should keep going and not give up. At the end it will be worth it because you might be saving another child (perhaps as son or daughter of the people who posted such us heartless comments) from having a worst accident than the one your son had. In the name of the students, Thanks, it takes a lot of guts to do this.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I'm not against a public health care program per se, and I hope that some sort program is set up after all of the Supreme Court reviews --- but where, exactly, does it say in the Constitution that Federal/State provided health care is a right?

I'm not talking about personal views of what is morally correct or what is deemed selfish or not. We can (or our legislators can) vote in health care programs - just like other social programs e.g., Social Security, MediCare, etc. But, like it or not, state funded health care is not a law/right under the Constitution.

We have Federal and State laws that mandate no one can be turned away from medical treatment if they cannot pay. And there are County programs which a family can avail themselves to if they cannot afford medical costs.

Frankly, PAUSD would be better off if they just paid the bill - the negative publicity will cost them more than the $10K.


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Posted by T
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm

my son came home with a form letting us know we could get some sort of "school insurance" for if something happened to him at school. the cost was twenty seven bucks.

FYI...for those that don't have health insurance, that option may be a good fit.


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Crescent Park Dad: I did not mean to suggest that the right derives from the Constitution or any other man made law. I meant to suggest that health care, as I see it, is a moral right. Now, do I think it should be statutory law? Definitely. I am always dumbfounded at how other things are mandated and provisions made so that everyone can have them- car insurance in California, for example. Even former violators of serious parts of the vehicle code are allowed to by car insurance (SR-22's) under the high risk pool and insurers must offer it. Why is this not so with health insurance?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

No one should be living in Palo Alto if they cannot afford health insurance. Don't need to be Einstein to figure out that one. There is the East Bay and many neighboring towns which are more affordable. The mom is fortunate to have only a $10,000 bill.

Health insurance is not a right. Those in Canada (universal health care) have to wait months for appointments, even while they are dying of cancer. Many of them travel to the U.S. for health care and pay out of pocket instead of waiting.

Why does everyone think that physicians should work for low wages, simply because it's health care? It's not easy to graduate with an M.D. degree. Businessmen and lawyers aren't expected to work for low wages.


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I did not mean to take the discussion so far away from the issue at hand. Lisa, I believe, was correct in assessing that this is not an insurance issue. It is a safety one. It should be addressed. I also agree with Crescent Park dad- PAUSD should just deal with it and pay the bill. This really makes them look bad! (Plus, I am sure their premises liability insurance will reluctantly pay out on it once their hand is forced.)


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

You're right Mom. Health care is not a right in this country, but it should be. It should be because we aren't talking about whether someone is entitled to a luxury vacation or prime rib over mac and cheese. We are talking about whether someone should be able to access preventative health care and emergency services. I don't want to read that someone was too afraid to seek out a doctor when they had a bacterial infection because of fear of the cost and later before infection spreads and kills them. We are a civilized country and we should weigh life and health much higher than we do. I don't care if this ends up costing me more for my insurance so long as those that presently don't have the access or care get it! You really should want this too.

As to doctors and what they are paid: UK doctors are certainly part of the upper middle class. I don't think doctors need to have a panic attack here. In some ways they already are subjected to this kind of reduction in pay anyway, and the indigent and lower middle class aren't even benefitting from it. For example, insurance companies dictate to doctors how much a procedure or visit is worth and that is what they pay regardless of what a doctor charges for the service. The winners in our present system are not the patients or the doctors- the winners are the insurance companies!


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Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Mom: Compassion is not part of your vocabulary obviously. Nobody in this thread has made any statements about doctors being overpaid or that they should give all of their services away. You are getting off track here. Canada may not have the best system but it sure beats what we have in the US. I know that some of the wealthier Canadians who don't think they should have to wait for services like everyone else may go out of the country to get faster services but I think you are not characterizing the system accurately. My in-laws were from Canada so I have a basis of fact. I have yet to see Canadians lose everything because they can't pay for health care. I hope you never get catastrophically ill and can't afford health care. Expecting everyone in PA to have the means to pay for health insurance is totally unrealistic.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm

@ Crescent Park Dad, I asked the same question as you - with regards to responsibility of another child - and got that portion deleted from my post (it's post #1). Interesting.
There is NO WAY every door, window, etc. can be made to everyone's satisfaction. I am sure there are national and state standards. That would be the place to go if someone has a grievance and believes a door here is not up to correct standards. And I don't know if the particular restroom door is or not, but the person with the grievance is free to check on this.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:34 pm

All the discussion about health care is only part of the story.

I am more concerned that this does not happen again.

Firstly, are we talking about a stall door or the door to the playground? I have never come across a soft closing stall door. There is also, usually, a gap presumably to prevent this sort of accident. If it is an entry door then a soft closing door makes sense and should be installed as a matter of course. Don't these risk people have common sense? Just as there are round lines reminding the kids that one of these doors may open outwards and not to hangaround inside the semicircle, a soft closing door makes equal good sense.

Secondly, we are overcrowding our schools. If kids are playing in bathrooms they should be stopped. We need to have enough lunchtime playground supervision to prevent unsafe games, and enough space that the bigger kids can run and play at their appropriate age level and the younger kids can do the same. There is a big difference between the size of a 1st grader and a 5th grader and the fact that they have to share such small play areas is wrong.

Stop overcrowding the schools and provide better lunchtime supervision, please.


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Posted by another PAUSD parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm

@moms comments are laughable were they not so widely held. Our family was denied insurance by 2 companies before we got our present policy. It was not for lack of ability to pay. Those of you on company or group plans have no awareness of the current health insurance landscape. Again, not the main point of this issue, but an important one since it's been brought up.

I applaud ninadora for pursuing this safety issue with the district.


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Posted by HawkeyePierce
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Health care, according to some on this thread, is a moral right. I agree. But the more immediate morality, imo, is the parents letting go of their health insurance while remaining in one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Perhaps there are complicated reasons for this, but it makes these parents look uncaring. It will also make the school district look uncaring if they don't help pay the bill and see if safer doors can be installed. That's worth the prevention of future injuries and lawsuits.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

She needs to take responsibility for two things: she failed to provide health insurance for her child and her child failed to use the facilities in the appropriate manner. Why is she attempting to shift the blame for her choice and her child's behavior onto the rest of us?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Several points -- again

-- Many writers have pointed out that lower cost health insurance exists -- and I know this well, while unemployed, I purchased it at a reasonable cost (I think it was $138/month) despite several pre-existing conditions. Having health insurance is parent's responsibility, even if you have to give up other things. Has the family purchased insurance after this accident?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

-- The kids were horsing around. Kids do that. A difficult lesson learned I would think.

The School district does its best to monitor kids....but kids get wild and do stupid things.

Hard lessons for both mother and child. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Mom in Old Palo Alto is heartless and judgmental. Geez. Don't you ever make any mistakes? Haven't you ever taken a risk that cost you something? Let's stop pointing fingers and look at the issues at hand:

1) The mom needs help with her hospital bills for an accident on school grounds. It has been pointed out several times by those with legal degrees- the standard for negligence appears to be met because according to these facts the school knew the door was a potential danger (other kids were harmed by the same door) and they did nothing to remedy it. If no other child has been harmed by the door, then the school would likely not be responsible because the danger is not foreseeable. Here it was foreseeable and they did nothing. They have a problem and they should be thankful all the woman is asking for is her medical bills. Everyone here should recognize that she could ask for a lot more and isn't.

2) Won't someone in this thread please urge PAUSD to deal with the problem and replace the darned door not only to shield themselves from future liability, but to protect our kids fingers! Further, this should apply to any other doors that are designed this way, at least at the elementary schools.


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm

ninadora is a registered user.

thank you so much for all of your kind and supportive comments and ideas. im sorry to hear that people are now saying that their children also had finger injuries at Fairmeadow doors in the past. the boys were not "horsing around", my child was the only boy in the bathroom at the time, the other boy had left and shut the door. there were no "cat scans" as someone said, but it is not too difficult to ignore ignorant comments, and they do not pose any real obstacle. however, even if they were horribly behaved children, i would fight for safer doors after an amputation incident. i'm concerned for the safety of a defiant kid as strongly as for obedient kids like these boys are. safety should not be reserved for the polite and the well-off. all i want is for them to change those doors so that this never happens again to any kid, good or bad, rich or poor, insured or not. i have no more kids at Fairmeadow, but this is a community, and this is an issue. those doors will be changed when this is over. that's the whole point, it is not about insurance or judgement. again, thank you for all of your kindness and support! Nina Kaloostian


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm

@Neighbor: You sound like an insurance company. Why did Stanford get a CT scan of the finger? Who knows- maybe the medical doctor thought he/she needed to see something he/she could not see on the X-ray. How is this the mother's problem? I would defer to the Stanford docs too. Secondly, you said you were able to get insurance for a low premium in spite of having all these pre-existing conditions. I would love for you to share the link. When I left my employer in 2009 I first explored individual/family plans because they were about $500 less a month than the COBRA option. I was denied by every one of them and honestly I am pretty healthy. I therefore elected the COBRA option and kept it until my husband decide to come out of early retirement and go back to work. We then chose the employer plan of Blue Shield PPO and boy did I have to jump through hurdles to secure certificates of continued coverage from my old insurer while all these claims piled up, because Blue Shield would have asserted that the claims covered pre-existing conditions without these certificates. It was a huge headache. The bottom line is that insurance companies will do everything that can to not pay claims. So, if you have identified what you say, please share your source for cheap insurance for those who have pre-existing conditions. I'll log the information away for future reference, just in case.


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Posted by To Nina
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Getting a petition together can make a difference. It's an organized way to put pressure on the school district.

Get some health insurance, if you haven't gotten any in the interim between the incident and now. The bottom line here is that no matter what larger organization is responsible for their part of your child's safety, you're obviously responsible for your child. It doesn't sound like you "lost" your health insurance, according to the story, but gave it up voluntarily due to cost. Did you look for other programs and avenues of coverage?

It's either pay out of pocket and hope to recoup, or pay insurance and be covered. It's currently the biggest, most dangerous gamble that normal folks engage in. At least you had a choice - you played your hand and lost - or rather, your child did. I hope that you pursue the options proposed on this thread so that those who rely on your and your husband can stay safe.


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Nina Kaloostian, thanks for posting your story at the forum and thanks to Palo Alto Online for writing a story about it. There are many things that are not working properly in our schools and most of the time when we try to say something to the administration, no one listen.

Safety is important. Why not make sure that we have doors that are extremely safe?

I applaud Nina for sharing her story! We should share what happens in our schools that no everyone sees it. We need to share when things are not working. We can also share good things. But we need to say more and people need to be more respectful when responding to postings.

Nina, I hope your boy is feeling okay about what happened. Give him lots of love.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Help me with the math.

>> She said her "healthy family of four" had to let go of its health insurance years ago when the monthly premium went to $1,200.

Looks like the family comes out ahead even if they incurred a $10,000 medical expense EVERY year. Those unpaid premiums would be going towards everyone else's medical bills (and insurance company profits). What would become of the system if we all decided to "self-insure"?


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Posted by anon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:19 pm

@musical

The problem with self-insuring yourself in this case is the fact that you can't predict what future medical expenses will arise. The family won't be able to plan when one of them will get a major injury and require time in the hospital. These unforeseen events could potentially cost a whole lot, much more than what you pay in insurance premiums. That's the entire point of having the insurance. So that they'll have you financially covered when the worst-case scenario happens.


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm

ninadora is a registered user.

again, we would truly like to thank everyone for their supportive comments and advise. @musical, you are exactly correct! in fact, the yearly deductible would have been thousands anyway. we have spent usually about 100-400 per year on medical expenses. many HMOs have dropped stanford hospital, and they have the best hand surgery team in the state. i would have opted to take him to stanford regardless of my hopes for "coverage". the medics told me that it was no use taking him to PAMF as they would have sent him to stanford anyway. i would not have taken the time to drive with my child's finger in my purse, to kaiser or anywhere else.
over the summer, i called PAMF about a whooping cough vaccine, and shopped around. cost was 70% less at the drug-store. i do not believe that the health insurance business serves patients, and so over the years we have chosen NOT to spend well over 170K on premiums, and actually spent about 22K (which includes the finger incident) on medical expenses, and never have payed a bill late or used any sort of assistance. this is our choice and it is of no interest to me whatsoever what negative thoughts come from strangers about it. it has been my experience that when you really need it, insurance companies try their best not to pay anyway. my child had the best and fastest care possible, and the bill will be paid. YES i did ask the school to pay the bill, but this is not and never was my priority. an insurance card would have not prevented this amputation injury, but a safe door like they have at JLS and other PAUSD schools would have. if one believe that having health insurance is the right choice for one's family, i totally respect that and would not argue that with you or ever add insult to anyone's injury. again, thank you so much for all of your positive thoughts and concern about the safety of the children of the community. Nina Kaloostian


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Posted by member
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm

We are eliminating too many hazards for our kids and causing them to grow up as irresponsible fools. I climbed trees as a kid, and fell out of them, breaking my arm. I learned a lot from this and am a more responsible adult for it. Without these experiences, we learn that the world is a safe place and that others will take care of our problems. Had someone prohibited tree climbing, I would have been denied the opportunity to challenge myself and learn about real consequences.

Doors are a common household item, and a reasonable thing to learn on. The injury is a minor tragedy and I am sorry it happened. The reaction to replace the door with one where it can never happen again is wrong-headed. To create a world where there is no possibility of injury does our children a great disservice. Then we force them to make these kinds of mistakes with things that are much more lethal, like cars.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm

To the Editor--

"Parent: School bathroom doors a safety hazard" would have been a better headline.

No need to introduce gender at the top of this story.

Please maintain gender neutrality whenever possible.

Thank you.


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Posted by roadrunner
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm

@ member of evergreen, that is just plain wrong. When you put your baby in your "car", be sure not to let him have a seatbelt or he may miss a valuable lesson by getting whiplash. Our elementary schools should be safe environments, and thank goodness for parents who push to make that happen.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Final words: Get health insurance. There ARE a range of options available. Perhaps a talk with your son about getting too wild might help avoid potential future accidents.

It's really too bad he lost the tip of a finger, but playing tag in the bathroom could have resulted in a much worse injury. Heaven forbid, it could have been a head injury. Bathrooms have hard surfaces and horsing around there is dangerous.

Before you condemn me without knowing me: When I was earning just $50/mo. more than welfare for 11 years, I got health insurance before anything else. I drove an old car, never went to restaurants, no cable.

Good thing I had the health coverage too. My daughter fell off a slide and broke her leg. I got hepatitis. Stuff happens. The health insurance paid off.


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Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

@ member of evergreen,

So by your logic you'd recommend we remove all the safe doors at the other schools so that kids there aren't denied the opportunity to challenge themselves and learn about real consequences?


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm

@wow: I died laughing when I read your response, which actually was the logical follow along to that post. It was ridiculous. We do what we can to make our kids safe based on prior harms/accidents and known dangers. Obviously, we can't do more. Accidents will still happen, but at least we know that we did what we could. Here, the school district sounds like they failed to prevent a known harm, as other kids have been harmed by this very same door! That is what makes no sense.

I love reading these posts, because so many of my fellow community members are quite logical in their approach to these problems and still have such a progressive view coupled with a kind heart. What a great city we live in. Now, PAUSD, please make decisions that are in line with your community members. If money is the problem in this instance, let's take up a private collection and pay for her medical bills and replace the darned door. If someone knows how to set up an account for her benefit and can grab PIE's ear, I'll contribute to her medical fund and increase my PIE donation.

Keep me posted!


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Posted by Other neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I agree with neighbor. Living in Palo Alto without health insurance does not add up.

If you want the school to pay for this, maybe the school is liable, but maybe, just maybe, you just want us, the taxpayers, to pick up the tab. Because ultimately it's the taxpayers who fund the schools. This is not right.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

@ evergreen member: That's just hogwash. By your logic we should take airbags and other safety devices out of cars because people will never learn to drive safely with all those safety devices in their cars.

We're not talking about this child jumping out of airplanes, he was in the bathroom at a school. His injury (and worse) could be prevented with simple and inexpensive safety measures.

You're not making children safer by subjecting them to preventable hazards, anymore than you would further decrease traffic fatality stats (largely due to safer cars) by removing antilock brakes.

Putting in those safety doors isn't going to make kids in our schools immune from all the other hazards in life, it will just make that place, which has in the course of normal life with normal kid behavior resulted in a serious injury, safer.

This shouldn't be this difficult.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm

@member
When I was a kid, I was smart enough to know not to fall out of the trees I climbed. I didn't have to break my arm to know that.


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Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I damaged my finger in a car door when I was a kid, and yet, after 40+ years, car doors still can sever a young digit!

We CAN NOT design a world to be 100% safe, so we MUST teach our children that there are consequences for each reckless action.

Kids NEED to learn to be careful around all types of doors: at home, school, autos, etc.

Finally, if a parent is concerned with managing risks, then by all means get health insurance! A severed finger is nothing compared to dealing with chronic illness or a major trauma.

Web Link


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Posted by @member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I am disappointed by some of the cruel, unfeeling reactions here.

There's a reason we don't enact laws by asking lay people their opinion. I would recommend the school take sensible precautions. If this door meets code then let it be. If it doesn't get it replaced, even if some people think its a sign of guilt. It's the right thing to do.

As for passing the hat around to help this family that's been through some trauma I'm all for it. Those people who argue that it serves the child right and children need to be careful etc. well they won't pay. So be it. There are enough kind people in Palo Alto to make this city worth living in.


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Posted by Marci
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I'm with you "@member". We just need this mother to set up an account for the benefit of her son and I'm in. It seems like a kinder and gentler solution than any proposed and it's the right thing to do. Further, I will be really angry if I hear about another finger loss from this same door. PAUSD needs to do the right thing. We gave generously to PIE, as I'm sure you did too. I'd like to know that some of the monies go towards things like this!

Finally, on a legal note, PAUSD: you should be ashamed of yourself and your attorneys should be air slapping you. You were probably not liable the first time this door injured a child or severed a finger, but after the first time you were put on notice and this danger became foreseeable. Who are your risk managers? Fire them. You should be thankful this woman only wants her son's medical bills paid! Would love to know what law firm you are using to review this matter.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by friend of Ninadora
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I can hardly believe the ignorance of this community in their responses! I personally know the people involved and this issue has NOTHING to do with health insurance or poorly behaved children. She is asking for NOTHING other than a safe environment so that this doesn't hapen to any other children in that school, which her child no longer even attends! Where is the compassion and gratitude you people should be expressing?!?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm

She is asking for something besides replacing the doors- she's asking for money toward the medical bill, actually. I don't think that's wrong.

But Sharon's just being ridiculous. Nina & family don't answer to Sharon or anyone here, actually.

I was reading this thread because we have friends who are plastic surgeon hand specialists so I was curious about this injury. What a nasty accident.


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

ninadora is a registered user.

I want to thank everyone who has offered so much support and kindness. It is horrifying to come to find out there have been previous injuries. Someone decided to put safe doors on some Palo Alto school bathroom doors, like the ones at JLS. Someone also decided NOT to put them in at Fairmeadow Elementary. This simply needs correcting immediatley. Thank you also for the suggestion to start a fund for the medical bills. I have zero desire to collect money, there are many more worthy recipients for your donations and generosity than us. It really warms my heart that you are so willing to help. Thank you for that so much. YES, I did ask the school district to help pay the bill and they declined. I first and foremost asked them to bring the door to the same standard of safety as our other PAUSD school bathroom entry doors, and they declined officially yesterday, insisting the doors are fine. The doors are not fine enough or choldren wouldnt lose fingers in them. This is where i wish to bring attention. I know that I could sue for damages as my child will always have a deformed finger and remember that horrible day and the weeks that followed. This is also not what i want to do. I am not interested in draining money from our school system. All I want to do here, and am doing regardless of judgements and insults, is bring attention to what i see as a real safety issue. I'll say it again, I WANT MY CHILD TO BE THE LAST ONE TO LOSE A FINGER IN THIS DOOR. Period. Thank you again for your help and kindness.


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Posted by ninadora
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

ninadora is a registered user.

To clarify because asked: it was NOT a stall door, it was the entry door. Also, I'm so sorry to the lady who posted that her daughter had her hand seriously injured by a Fairmeadow bathroom door also. I'm sick about the fact that your complaint was ignored. Thank you so much for sharing that. Nina Kaloostian


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Posted by allen
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

allen is a registered user.

If you think PAUSD needs to pick up this tab start emailing the board and skelly


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