Dutch Playground Shut Down Over Noise Complaints

Public Domain. MaxPixel

Apparently kids are meant to be seen and not heard.

Children's right to play is under threat in the Netherlands. A primary school has been told to shut down its playground and sports field by the end of the month because it is too noisy for neighbouring residents. If it fails to comply it will face a €10,000 fine for every subsequent infringement.

Residents in the area have complained that playground noise frequently exceeded the 70-decibel limit, with official measurements reaching 88 decibels at times. The school has responded by moving musical productions indoors, delaying opening the sports field until 8 PM, and making structural changes, but it hasn't been enough.

Local Green party councillor Noël Vergunst sided with the disgruntled residents, explaining that officials had "a duty to investigate complaints and 'the noise measurement showed that the noise standard was considerably exceeded, so we had to do something'."

The resulting order is shockingly unfair to the children, who are the paying the price for officials' poor urban planning. As Erik Roelofsen, director of the Dutch Foundation Against Annoyance by Noise, explained, the apartment buildings near the school had been constructed too close.

"Municipalities must continue to think about spatial planning. This field is built in on three sides, the sound can hardly dissipate."

It's horrifying to think of children being kept indoors because the sound of their play is too obnoxious to nearby adults. It's even worse because so many children lack outdoor time at home and rely on school recesses to get sunshine, fresh air, and physical activity. To keep them indoors is like issuing them a prison sentence; it's inhumane, unhealthy, and detrimental to their development. (Read: Children spend less time outside than prison inmates)

Of course kids can be noisy, but so can countless other things. At 88 decibels, the children are not far off the noise made by a vacuum cleaner (80 decibels), a lawn mower (90), a motorcycle (100), and the steady din of city traffic (78). All of these are things we accept as the consequences of urban life, so why not playing children?

Meanwhile, the order has been met with outrage, which isn't surprising. A petition with 4,000 signatures so far is asking for it to be overturned.