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Back to School Safety - Tuesday, September 8, 2009, Rosewood Elementary School, Columbia, South Carolina

September 17, 2012

It is so good to be back home. And I am so pleased to be here at Rosewood Elementary School today.

I want to thank Rosewood and the Richland One School District for hosting this back to school safety event. In particular I want to recognize Richland One Superintendant Dr. Percy Mack, Richland One’s School Board Member Duane Smiling, Rosewood Elementary’s Principal Dr. Ted Wachter, and all of the school district officials, employees and children for joining us, and also Dr. Belinda Gergel, a member of Columbia’s City Council.

As the Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, my agency is responsible for protecting consumers from dangerous products. At CPSC, we have a special focus on our smallest consumers – children.

But my roots are still in South Carolina. As you know, I was elected State Superintendant of Education and served from 1998 through 2007.

My path from State Superintendent of Education to Chairman of the CPSC allows me to continue my passion of promoting children’s safety and well-being. In fact, I have made education and advocacy one of my top priorities as Chairman.

Today in Virginia, President Barack Obama is launching a major back-to-school campaign called “My Education, My Future,” which is aimed at keeping students in the classroom. I am here to lend my support to the President’s initiative.

Millions of children all across the country are starting a new and exciting school year. Many will be learning to read and write for the first time. Students of all ages will be tackling math -- addition, subtraction, algebra and geometry. As kids head back to class, CPSC wants to make sure that safety is built into the equation.

It takes just a moment for a child to be seriously injured or even killed riding a bicycle, playing on the playground, using a movable soccer goal, wearing a jacket with a drawstring, or by a recalled product.

Let’s keep kids in the classroom and out of the emergency room. Parents and school officials should make it a priority to check for hazards at home, on the way to school, and at school.

Today, CPSC is releasing our new back to school safety checklist with simple safety precautions.

Number one is playgrounds:

Every year more than 200,000 people – mostly children – visit hospital emergency rooms because of playground injuries. Most of the injuries involve falls onto the playground surface or the playground equipment.

Parents and school officials should check their school’s playground equipment. Make sure it has been inspected and maintained. Make sure there are at least nine inches of shock absorbing surface material around the playground equipment to help soften the impact if a child falls.

Number two is bicycle helmets:

Every year, there are reports of about 80 children under 16 who are killed while riding their bikes and there are about 500,000 bicycle-related emergency room treated injuries to students in that age group.

One of the best ways you can protect your child while they are riding their bike to or from school is to make sure they wear a helmet that meets CPSC requirements. Just as these students are demonstrating – the helmet should fit snuggly, be level on the top of their head and the chin strap should be buckled. Our motto at CPSC is: strap a helmet on – it could save a life.

Number three is drawstrings:

Make sure there are no drawstrings in the hood and neck area of your child’s clothing. Drawstrings are a strangulation hazard. In fact, just last week CPSC penalized Hill Sportswear $100,000 for failing to report drawstrings in their hooded sweatshirts. The sweatshirts were reportedly involved in the death of a little boy who strangled on a drawstring in his sweatshirt after it got stuck on playground equipment.

Remove hood and neck area drawstrings in your child’s clothing to prevent this tragedy.

Number four is movable soccer goals:

Make sure that all soccer goals are securely anchored while in use. They can tip over and crush a child.

And number five is check for recalled products.

You can find them on our Web site, I’d also urge you to sign up to receive CPSC’s recall announcements directly to your email inbox.

It just takes a moment for a child to be seriously injured or killed. Check what your child is wearing to make sure there are no drawstrings. Make sure they wear a helmet that meets CPSC requirements if they ride their bike to school. Check your school’s playground and soccer goals. The moment you take, could save a child’s life.

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