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Ontario city's cartwheels petition gathering support from across the country

Principal says he's not actually aware of any reported injuries due to cartwheels
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NORTH BAY — The parent who started an online petition called, Let the kids at MT Davidson Cartwheel, describes her meeting with the school principal to discuss the proposed ban on cartwheels in the school yard, as 'positive'.

See: Proposed cartwheel ban in school playground has some parents flipping out

Stephanie Balen whose child is in grade five at the school, met with Principal Todd Gribbon Thursday morning. 

"I did say to him at the meeting that I don't think he did the leg work to prove that there is the potential,  or even a substantial risk for kids to be doing that. I brought up that there's so many other things like bullying that we need to be worrying about, if we're going to start worrying about things like that."

Principal Gribbon told Village Media earlier in the week, the rationale behind a ban is 'there's potential for a concussion, wrist or neck injuries when students are performing these acts without proper supervision.' 

He does admit he hasn't heard of any reported cases of injuries due to cartwheels at the school. 

Balen, says she started the petition because while she feels health and safety issues are important, 'we can't just take away everything that makes them happy when they're learning.' 

During the half hour long meeting, Balen says she told the school principal that,

"Children around the world are learning about all kinds of things. They're learning self-defence, they're learning how to cook and sew, and Callander Ontario is going to be banning cartwheels. Banning activities like that is going to be detrimental to kids, and it's going to have negative repercussions among the student body."

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Physical and Health Education Canada says,

"Having a school based policy that constrains students from indoor or outdoor play is an unfortunate by-product of a safety culture and a risk aversion culture that is permeating our society." 

Brian Storey went on to say there are two related areas which need to be addressed.

"One is physical education in the school system that would allow all children to be able to do cartwheels, tumbles and rolls safely, and this is something that every child deserves. The second is societies on-going movement towards risk aversion. Unfortunately children are the collateral damage of this diverse society that doesn't let them explore, take chances and learn from experience. We want to protect them from all failures and accidents and unfortunately they don't play outdoors enough, or take enough risk in their play.   

Meanwhile, the parent lead petition is gathering steam. 

"The amount of people inside and outside the community who think this is a ludicrous idea is growing. I'm getting support from not just Ontario, but little pockets of Canada. I had a PTA mom in Alberta reach out to me. It shows that we all, as a massive community, want our kids to be able to be kids. There's such an epidemic with technology and kids growing up too soon. This is only encouraging that."

Principal Gribbon says the recommended ban will be reviewed by staff on October 2nd, followed by a parent, and safe schools committee meeting on October 3rd.

"It's a consultation process. It's not etched in stone."

Baten is hoping to collect a minimum of 5,000 signatures which she will deliver during the parent meeting. 

"I don't know how many kids actually cartwheel, but it's the principle. There's a ripple effect from this. No kid wants to be in school sitting at a desk staying still. Why wouldn't kids want to be running and playing and jumping and cartwheeling?" 

She says she left the meeting with the school principal feeling positive. 

"I'm definitely hopeful but I really don't know. I want to be optimistic. It's not like I got a feeling that he was leaning one way or the other. The only thing I know for sure is that he was receptive to hearing feedback. So it's crucial that people express their opinion. Just reading the stories about this isn't going to make change happen."

Balen went on to say,

"I know the principal is putting this out there to keep kids safe, and yes, maybe he didn't think about all the aspects of it, but I also think that he is open to hearing what parents have to say as long as they come forward. I was floored with how great the meeting went."