Student was seriously injured by sword during school play rehearsal, lawsuit alleges
A Webster Township woman is suing the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor, alleging that a student pierced her son's right eye socket with a metal sword during a school play rehearsal last year, leaving him with vision loss and brain damage.
Lynn Beals-Becker is seeking an unspecified amount of money in the suit filed Thursday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.
The suit alleges the school entrusted a 14-year-old student with a "sharp unguarded metal sword" to use in a fighting scene involving the plaintiff's son even though he wasn't trained to handle it.
According to the suit, the injury occurred June 4, 2010, during a rehearsal of the play “The Revenge of Three Sisters." The plaintiff's son was 14 at the time, playing the town sheriff. As the other student made his way toward him, the suit says, he attempted to "deflect the sword." However, the suit says, the "thrust of the sword pierced into his right orbit." The boy suffered lasting injuries, the suit says, including weakness to his left side and an inability to properly raise his eyelid.
Sandra Greenstone, an administrator at the school, did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 10:34 p.m.
I'm very familiar with the situation, and have great sympathy for all involved. I find that a lot of speculation and misinformation is contained in some of the other comments. Steiner is a very responsible school, and has outstanding values. The "swords" were not sharp, and there were qualified trainers in using them in attendance. This unfortunate accident could have happened with plastic or cardboard props, as well. But it was an accident. I agree that the suit may be only to gain insurance coverage. Beyond that, I'd rather not comment. But perhaps the author can do a little more research and clear up some of the innuendo.
Mon, May 2, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.
You suggest Lee Higgins do further research. I would note that his article states that "Sandra Greenstone, an administrator at the school, did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday."
Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.
It is amazing that parents continue to send their children to the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor. The children are not safe there. I personally know of three families that have left the school because of concerns over safety. I smell a state investigation here.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:17 a.m.
My nephew is a student there and he said it was a lot of fun until someone (the unfortunate young man) got his eye poked out.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.
Dr. Beals-Becker was forced to sue for medical expenses due to the way the insurance system is set up. Health insurance won't cover treatment for injuries that they deem should be covered by other insurance. Auto injuries are covered by auto insurance, and work injuries are covered by workers' compensation. In this case, her son's medical care should be covered by the school's liability insurance, but a lawsuit is the only way to get that insurance to pay. I can only imagine the cost of hospital bills, imaging, surgeries, specialist visits, and therapies required after such an injury.
Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 4:54 a.m.
A real sword used in a school play? It's a weapon, a weapon is a weapon! Very sad situation here, loss of vision and brain damage is a serious complication for a 14 yr. old. If this were my son, I would continue with the law suit. It won't fix all, but will help.
Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.
If a family breaks their contract with this school, the school will come after you for unpaid tuition thru the courts. The school broke their contract with this family by not keeping their child save, so the family is just as right to sue for breach of contract and damages. I hope they can settle out of court and not put this child and family thru any more pain.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.
Even a plastic sword thrust at someone could do this kind of damage. Why weren't these kids wearing safety glasses and helmets? That is the obvious answer to avoiding these types of accidents. Or instead of using props in a play have the actors pretend they have props in their hands while a narrator describes to the audience what they would see if props were actually used. Even better, let's just eliminate plays all together like we did with slides in Ann Arbor a numbe of years ago. They are obviously very dangerous and supervised by people without the proper OSHA training to keep our kids safe. But either way Rudolph Steiner should be sued out of existence to make sure this never happens again.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.
I agree, children should were helmets and safety glasses constantly until they reach the age of eighteen. Teachers should have OSHA and MISHA In-Service days every third Saturday, unless of course that Saturday falls on Safety Day. On Safety Day they would be required to recite the safety commandments ten times.
say it plain
Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.
They should definitely be made to understand how this is NOT appropriate behavior for a school, NOT equivalent to keeping certain kinds of playground equipment around lol, and I don't know what kind of plastic sword you've used that could pierce flesh and brain tissue. What kind of contract do people sign when they go to this place lol? One that absolves the school of all responsibility for the safety of their children while on the premises? If not, then the school screwed up, and I'm having a hard time imagining a judge or jury who'd disagree!
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.
I withdrew my child from the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor over safety concerns along with concerns about the teachers' judgment about safety matters. I am saddened, but not surprised, that something like this terrible incident happened during a school activity.
say it plain
Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.
Woa, pretty intensely negative response to someone's apparently well-reasoned judgment that there was poor considerations about safety at this school. Keeping REAL SWORDS out of the hands of children is not equivalent to being continually helmeted or living in a plastic bubble. I feel terrible for the child who inflicted this injury too, because the supervising adults should never have allowed him to be in the position to 'responsibly' wield a sword.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.
Good for you. What helmeted, plastic bubble school does your child attend? I want to make sure mine are safe from all harm too. I'm also sorry to hear you are saddened by this, you should get some counseling to help deal with your feelings.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.
If I sent my kid to school, and he was put in a position where another kid was lungeing at him with a real sword, well, I would sue for damages too. As parents we have an expectation of our schools that a reasonable level of safety and precaution will be taken. This is unreasonable. It's not like he was accidently pushed off the monkey bars. It's a sword!!!
say it plain
Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.
This was totally preventable. With a very reasonable rule. NO WEAPONS IN SCHOOL. Many schools have pretend-weapon bans. If this had happened with a pretend weapon then one might consider it a terrible accident that nobody could have foreseen. But when it happens with an object that was manufactured for the purposes of piercing flesh and causing injury, and then this object is used to simulated *fighting*, it necessarily calls into SERIOUS question the judgment of any adults/institutions responsible for allowing it. Because it becomes sort of like simulating, say, an event like a pedestrian being hit by a car by using a real car and hoping the student driver is good at using the accelerator pedal and brakes well.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.
Whether a student is accidently pushed off moneky bars or injured by a sword or any number of other possibilities there are people who are going to sure. It pays to have a good lawyer at the ready in case one of lifes accidents happens to befall you; it just feels good to sue somebody and make someone pay. I'm sure no one did this on purpose and not everything in life is as preventable as you might like to believe.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.
I'm on the fence about this one. If they are suing to pay for medical bills and pain & suffering, I completely agree with that. However, sometimes people take an accident & go to far with the lawsuit hurting the people on the other side of the accident (who I'm sure didn't mean for this to happen to the boy). We need to be & keep our kids safe and take reasonable measures (like not having real swords be part of a play) but also accept that sometimes accidents do happen in life and not always look for someone to blame or stay angry at. I do agree that the school should change their policies as to real swords being used & owes this family help with the medical bills. However, I think that's all....
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.
So for realism sake the school made the decision to use a real gun. A kid accidentally shoots and kills another kid with this gun. This is not "accidents will happen". This is a case of adults lacking common sense to not allow 14 year old access to a weapon that is designed to hurt people. If this were at the UM, and adults were IN the actual play, I would have a different response, BUT part of the role of the school is to make appropriate decisions for the children. There should be actual, damages, pain and suffering AND punitive damges to teach Steiner a lesson that obviously was not done.
say it plain
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.
It's appalling to hear that Steiner would allow *real weapons* to be used for stage play?! Shocking. How ironic, that the Steiner approach is heralded as all about peace and someone thought it would be a good idea to bring a piece of blade capable of doing that kind of damage and use it for 'play' fighting?! Was it the general "no plastics, only 'real' materials" orientation of the pedagogical philosophy that got in the way of reason here?! How unfortunate for everyone. But I can't imagine *not* filing a suit in this case, too irresponsible on the part of the school and too traumatic an injury for the child whose school didn't properly safeguard his well-being.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.
Using a metal sword during supervised school activities was really stupid. No two ways about that one. Easy lawsuit..If that what it takes to get the school to have a rule like that...
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.
A double standard exists, a student can be expelled for bringing a knife regardless of the size and material it is made from to school. But the school provides utensils including knives at lunch and it appears in this situation provided the sword or approved someone to do so for the play. It would seem that the state in creating the law has created a situation just waiting for a lawsuit to be filed challenging the expulsion law or in this case the school has complicity.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.
What school provides their students with knives at lunch?
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.
This story shocked me... Last year, at a public school, I wanted to use CARDBOARD swords in an elementary school play and the kids themselves expressed concerns about the use of 'weapons.' The kids are very aware of and sensitive to that 'no weapons at school' rule. (We ended up skipping use of even cardboard make-believe swords, principal confirmed it was not appropriate!) Steiner is a private school so I'm sure they can make different choices about rules like that. I appreciate that the kids are older here but that prop sounds absurdly and unnecessarily realistic. I'm amazed any adult involved was comfortable with that choice. *wow*
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.
If I am reading this right it says that they were using a real sword. That alone seems kind of dumb. But isn't it illegal to possess any kind of weapon in school? I've read stories of kids being expelled from school for drawing pictures of weapons. What gives?
Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.
I don't think it's illegal. In fact, some are advocating for gun rights in schools. On the other hand, so called "zero tolerance" would prohibit toy soldiers and drawings of swords and guns. Can we legislate common sense, or perhaps drop all legislation on such nit-picking, busy body levels and leave it to the common sense of teachers, parents, and school officials and the school boards. Having said that, isn't football responsible for more permanent injuries than any other activity? I know of several classmates who limp for life.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.
Google "student expelled for drawing gun" and you will find story after story about this happening all over the country.
say it plain
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.
Expulsion for drawing weapons sounds odd lol, but I do know that say on Halloween many schools prohibit the sorts of pretend weapons that might go with say a knight coustume and so on.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.
Can you cite an example of a kid being expelled for drawing weapons? I'm having a hard time believing that.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.
Any school, theatre or institution should have a Fight Director to safely choreograph any kind of stage violence or swordplay, and be in attendance at any/all rehearsals. This would ensure the safety of all concerned. Suing the school is appropriate punishment for their stupidity and lack of forethought. There are people trained in Fight Choreography in Ann Arbor, so there is no excuse for this kind of accident.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.
While I've never heard of people trained in Fight Choreography, and think that's a great idea, I still think it was irresponsible and stuipid to use a real metal sword. Dont they have props that still *look* real but are plastic/rubber/bendy on the tip? I hope this family gets compensated. Private schools cost a lot to attend, and my expectation would be that kids would be closely supervised in a private schools as they might have more teachers per kids? Maybe that's an inaccurate statement (my kids are in public school), my apologies if it is. I just wouldn't expect any school, any where, to be using real weapons. Good luck to you and your son, Dr Becker. I hope he recovers.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.
Does this really belong in the CRIME section?
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.
Although the topic says crimes, if you look at the contact page you will see that Lee Higgins' beat is police and courts. He would be responsible for this story because it was a lawsuit filed in court.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.
Can't we sometimes, perhaps most of the time, admit that something sad happened but we don't have to sue?
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.
"Can't we sometimes, perhaps most of the time, admit that something sad happened but we don't have to sue?" Totally agree. Except this is NOT one of those times. This was one of the most asinine, negligent incidents I have read about in ages. If this would have happend at a public school all hell would have broken loose. I can't even believe I am reading this. I hope that poor kid owns this place before this is all over.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.
Obviously the school was at fault, and wouldn't it be nice if the school and insurance company stepped up to the plate, did what was right, and took care of this child. If it was your child I am sure you would be able to understand the emotional, physical, and financial burden this has been on the family. I feel bad for this child, the parents, the teacher, and the school. This isn't a scratch on a car door; it is about a child's wellbeing. I hope the case covers at a minimum their medical expanses. If a collection is needed I am in.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.
Normally I'd agree with you but this kid has a life time of disability to deal with. That costs money. Plus our societies method of compensating pain and suffering is money. Some adult at that school gave that prop to those kids to practice with.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.
There's a reason stage swords are made of wood and rubber. This is part of what courts are for. The school probably (hopefully) has insurance. Do you think the insurance company is going to pay reasonable expenses out of the goodness of it's heart? Do insurance companies do *anything* out of the goodness of someone's heart? I'd bet she's sought out top-notch care, and the insurance company doesn't want to pay for that. So in our society, you go to court to decide what's reasonable and make the insurance company pay. If the school doesn't have insurance? Well, they shouldn't have been using a real sword. Sometimes the most important lessons have to be learned the hard way.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.
I'm wondering what the point is. What sort of financial resources would a small private school in Ann Arbor have?
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.
Yes, the right brain controls the left side of the body. This sword injury likely caused injury to the right motor cortex and this would cause left sided body weakness. Beyond her place as a concerned mother, Dr. Becker is also a physician (D.O.) and very qualified to recognize and understand the extent of her son's injury. I hope her son manages to recover well over time.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 3:51 a.m.
I think Ms. Becker might be Dr. Becker.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.
"Thrust of the sword pierced into his right orbit" but caused lasting injuries "including weakness to his left side"? Am I misreading or does that not make total sense?
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.
Right, but unless the orbit has suddenly become a part of the brain, it doesn't make sense. The orbit is the eye socket. It says nothing about the sword piercing the brain.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011 : 2:25 a.m.
I believe the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa.