There's a reason adults must supervise children.
Because, as all parents know, children are impulsive and sometimes do stupid things — even to each other.
Ideally, when that happens a well-meaning adult can quickly step in and keep a dangerous situation from becoming worse.
Yet a year after the Maine Department of Education adopted new rules to prevent the abusive use of restraints in schools, many teachers seem too paralyzed by uncertainty to act appropriately — or at all — when required.
This is a tale of well-meaning people attempting to solve a problem and, in doing so, creating other problems perhaps more serious than the first.
In July of 2011, the Forecaster, a Sun Media newspaper based in Falmouth, began reporting on the concerns of parents who felt their children were injured while being restrained by school personnel.
In one case, Scarborough parents said their five-year-old had been restrained more than 25 times over an 18-month period, resulting in a sprained wrist, hospitalization and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fearing for their son's safety, the parents pulled him out of school and the child was ultimately placed in a special school.
The Forecaster found a surprising number of children being restrained in many school districts and, after more parents came forward, the Department of Education issued a warning about the using of dangerous restraints.
Meanwhile, a stakeholder group of parents, special education teachers, administrators and disability rights advocates began meeting and ultimately agreed upon a new set of rules.
At about this time last year, parent advocates voiced concern the new rules were not detailed enough. Teachers and principals, meanwhile, worried they were too restrictive.
The rules were meant to safely control students, but to prohibit the type of abuse which had resulted in a handful of deaths nationwide.
Early this week, the Maine Education Association claimed "dozens" of public school teachers and education technicians had been injured by students because of the new rules.
The teacher union, however, offered no specifics on the circumstances or types of injuries that had resulted.
MEA President Lois Kilby-Chesley said the rules seemed clear when they were adopted, but school administrators and teachers across the state are still confused about when and how to intervene when students become disruptive.
Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster told the Sun Journal the new rules were having severe unintended consequences for students.
He described several cases where situations escalated unnecessarily because teachers felt they were forbidden to respond as quickly as required.
Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin echoed Webster's complaints and pointed out that parents could not even authorize school employees to use common-sense restraint.
The new rules resulted from an open, month-long process involving multiple stakeholders.
Still, even people with the best of intentions cannot always foresee the negative consequences that might result.
But the Department of Education is now reluctant to re-open the laborious rule-making process.
That means the Legislature must conduct hearings and either tweak the law to make it clearer or provide better training for school employees.
New laws are rarely perfect right out of the gate, and this one needs attention sooner rather than later.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.