Playground vandal cuts special needs kids’ joy
A selfish vandal has destroyed one of the things that brought joy to a special group of students at Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs.
Parker Wilson, a fifth-grader at Sopris who has cerebral palsy, wrote to the Post Independent that she and her friends made the unfortunate discovery recently that the brand new handicap swing at the school playground had been vandalized.
“They destroyed it by cutting off one of the buckles, and trying to cut off the other and the harness that goes over our head,” she wrote. “This is preventing all of the other special needs kids, including me, from using it.”
A little investigation turned up a cigarette butt behind the swing, leading Wilson and her friends to speculate that the swing straps were burned off.
“When I smelled the place on the buckle it smelled like smoke,” she said. “So, rather than cutting the buckles, they may have been burned by this person.
“I hope you understand how much this swing meant to us, and how upsetting it is to me that I can’t use it anymore,” Wilson concluded, directing her comments at the unknown perpetrator.
Pamela Tate, a fourth- and fifth-grade special education teacher at Sopris, said the vandalism is particularly disconcerting as the school gets ready to break ground next month on a brand new, Great Outdoors Colorado grant-funded playground project.
“These playgrounds are open to the community to use, and with the new equipment, we need our community to be respectful of that,” Tate said.
The new playground will include some adaptive equipment and features for handicapped students, but the special $400 swing was purchased and installed last fall separately from the larger playground project.
“It’s one of the few things our special needs kids can do on the playground,” Tate said. “It’s just really, really sad, because it does give those kids so much joy.”
An estimate put the cost to repair the swing at about $130, but that won’t happen until after the new playground is complete.
SES Principal Kathy Whiting said the incident was reported to police, but school security camera recordings didn’t catch the act of vandalism.
“They investigated it, but there’s not really much we can do,” Whiting said, adding that the school is looking at the potential for security cameras at the new playground itself.
“It just seems like a very selfish act of vandalism, and so senseless,” she said.
A groundbreaking for the new playground project is scheduled for the last week of school, on the afternoon of June 6 around the time school lets out.
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