Last Friday I posted an article about a school district settlement with a student, after a severe injury due to impact with traditional wired glass.  The article mentioned that a “15-year-old high school student fell while climbing atop a stack of rolled up wrestling mats.”  What the article didn’t say was that the mats had been rolled up between practices, and the student was helping to set up – the mats were stuck together and he climbed up to help free the mat and slipped, impacting the glass.  His injury was horrific, and he’s lucky to be alive.

What left me wordless was when I received a comment on that post, stating that most wired glass injuries are due to kids’ bad behavior, “out of control brats”, and liberal parenting.  The commenter suggested that we should “let natural selection run its course.”  Wow.  I don’t think my kids are badly-behaved, but they run, jump, horse around, and sometimes they do dumb things.  They’re kids.  I did plenty of dumb things when I was a kid.  Not to mention that there are many cases of adults injured by wired glass, and documented incidents of kids who were not behaving badly when they were injured.  And “natural selection”?  I won’t even go there.

I’m not sure who posted this or what his/her motivation was, but in the last few days there have been many thoughtful and informed comments left in response.  I wanted to draw your attention to them.  To read the complete comments, refer to the previous post.

Greg Abel, Advocates for Safe Glass:

“…I am the founder and chair of an organization called Advocates For Safe Glass. I founded this shortly after my own son Jarred was severely injured by wired glass while exiting the sports complex at the University Of Oregon in 2001. My wife  Kathy would tell you that I became obsessed with the question of wired glass in relation to human impact, if my obsession was correct I will only say, that is what parents do when they have a child of their own or learn of a child injured, we try to fix it and hopefully prevent feature injuries from happening. What I did at this point was to spend countless hours researching wired glass and injury data not only here in the US but abroad. What I learned was quite startling. Wired Glass is not safe glass and was determined so by the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1977. It was further determined in the UK in 1994 to be an unsafe product and was banned from use in hazardous locations in the very country which was the leading manufacture of wired glass the UK. But this unsafe traditional wired glass product continued to be allowed to be sold in this country because of the dominance of the wired glass industry on virtually every regulatory body. And because of the misguided blame on the victims themselves….”

Eric Tengowski, Engineering Specialties Company:

“You beat me to the punch. I was going to ask Mr. Gunter for some backup to that claim. His comment seems to have more of a political agenda and this isn’t the blog for politics. I’m guessing Mr. Gunter doesn’t have kids, but if he did, they would be perfect children – no doubt.

The work you (Mr. Abel) have done and continue to do is admirable. Thanks for helping make us all a little bit safer. Are you ready to take on the latest and greatest security issues now?”

David DeFilippo, TSOI/Kobus Associates:

“Kids are Kids – Insurance settlements are not replacements for lives. In my humble opinion, changes like requiring schools to fix this issue will only happen when insurance companies force the schools into action or pay higher premiums for not fixing it. You could replace a lot of wire glass for $ 2M plus a child may still be alive.”

Len Brunette, President of Safe Glass Solutions:

“…It’s unfortunate that while we now understand the danger of this product we have to realize that there are miles of square footage of it in our public facilities. Probably the greatest use of this product is in our public schools, facilities we send our most precious and innocent members of our families to each and everyday. We must take actions to address the existing product and make it a “safe” product until it can be changed to one of the newer and improved life safety products…”

Charles Hall, Advocates for Safe Glass:

“As a father of two boys and as a responsible citizen, I find the whole wired glass situation beyond ridiculous. Here we have the problem identified, the remedy available and the tragic results of negligence evidenced in maiming, disfigurement and death, all in plain view. For five plus years I have been assisting Mr. Abel in his efforts to effect a change and I am still perplexed at the seeming indifference the governing bodies display. What more must be done to create a motivation to change?

What are the true reasons for the lack of action? Is the attitude of the angry and resentful Gunter more pervasive than I would like to believe? Natural selection? A large part of natural selection is the adults of a species is nurturing and protecting their offspring to improve the percentage of survival…As fellow parents and citizens I would hope that others would join in the efforts to ensure the well being of our future generations.”

Vicki Walker, Former Oregon State Senator:

“As Mr. Abel points out in his response to “Gunter,” his statements are completely unfounded, leaving the uninformed reader even more uninformed. While the Internet has afforded us a tremendous opportunity to broaden our universe of knowledge, it also has its drawbacks when bloggers can hide behind the mask of anonymity. “Gunter’s” post is so utterly absurd it makes you wonder who would say such a thing? Certainly not a parent of one of these injured children and young adults, certainly not an educator who witnesses the carnage and trauma inflicted upon these kids, and certainly not anyone concerned about safety in our schools.

Mr. DeFilippo understands this kind of a settlement is hopefully a pathway for insurance companies to start demanding that school districts replace or retrofit existing wired glass. Unfortunately, it’s always about money in the end. It was about money for the wired glass cartel that made this dangerous product in the first place. They knew it could be made safer, but they chose not to because it cost a few dollars more. And by loading up the regulatory committees with wired glass advocates, they kept efforts at bay to develop and require safer products be installed in our schools, gymnasiums, day care centers and even in hospital waiting rooms!

It’s not about politics…it’s about money. And if school districts choose not to heed the warnings that this glass is unsafe, then it is a risk they take when it comes to paying out on a claim. Unfortunately, the risk they take is with our children’s safety, and that truly is unforgivable.”

Donn Harter, Director of Technical Services, Americas Glass Association:

“…Schools and other public buildings continue to avoid safe-guarding the millions of square feet of the latent product, wired and other annealed glass. Scores of articles have been written about the failures of wired glass by Greg Abel, myself and a few others, yet to no avail. The schools present the worst exposure to our unsuspecting youth. Whether playing or accidentally falling into annealed glass, the results ate traumatic. Lives have been claimed and permanent injuries sustained.

The remedies are here. Replacement with approved safety glass or filming. The schools are aware. The publicity of horrendous accidents and enormous settlements are eventually made public. It seems that the majority of school accidents never see the light of day. The liability factors and tremendous lawsuits (by some of the victims that bring suit) are an enormous cost to schools and school districts. Yet, this is the top of the iceberg. The loss of lives and permanent disability are the real issues.

Schools claim they can’t afford to retrofit non-safety glazing windows and doors with safety glass. Yet, they will pay millions in laws suits. So the maiming goes on. As an example, in a recent settlement of a 2 million dollar lawsuit where a student went though a non-safety glazed window, the cost of filming that opening would have been less than $200!”

Brian, Glazing Supplier:

“Over the years I’ve worked with various types of safety glazing products, most well known include tempered and laminated glass. When I began in the glass industry over 20 yrs ago, the company I worked for distributed cases (truckloads) of glass including laminated safety glazing to school districts. During this time we also sold many cases of polished wire glass. At the time, many believed that this too was a safety glazing product. The belief was that the wires embedded inside would make the glass stronger & safer. In reality, it is just the opposite. The wire makes the glass weaker and when broken pose an even greater threat to injury! With so many choices available today, and even ways to make existing wire glass safer, it is just crazy to think that the potential for injuries can’t be greatly reduced. Kids will be kids; running, jumping, pushing, etc … and that is exactly how we should all want them to be. We’re making them grow up way too fast.”

Mark T Freeley, Esq, North Shore Injury Lawyer:

“I am a personal injury lawyer on Long Island, NY, and I became involved in wired glass litigation in 2009. At that time my neighbor’s son was severely injured by coming into contact with wired glass in a stairwell of our local high school. During the pendency of the litigation, the following unbelievable facts came to light. In March 2006, nearly 3 full years before my client’s accident, the New York State Education Dept., Office of Facilities Planning issued Newsletter #73. This Newsletter was displayed on their website for months and was sent via e-mail to our local school district, and our district admitted receiving it prior to my client’s accident. This Newsletter warned of the dangers of wired glass. In set forth, ” This is an important advisory concerning the use of wire glass in schools.” It warned that “…there is a common misconception that wire glass is impact resistant. This is not true, and in fact wire glass is only half as strong as regular plate glass.” It warned of the serious injuries that are inflicted by wire glass, and advised of several fire rated impact resistant glazing options and urged schools to research the options. It set forth ” Now for the difficult part, what do we do with the existing wire glass installations? We strongly recommend that all existing wire glass locations be evaluated for potential impact and injury.” Despite the strong wording of this newsletter, the school district attorneys argued to the court that they were merely “aspirational in nature”, and did not impose any duty upon the schools to replace existing wire glass…”  [There is much more information about this case in the complete comment.]

Now the question is, how do we inspire change?  Any ideas?

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