Parents given bill of US$132,000 after child breaks art sculpture
Parents in Kansas were given a US$132,000 bill after their five-year-old son knocked over an art sculpture that was on display at a community centre.
According to ABC News, a sculpture called the Aphrodite de Kansas City was sitting unsecured on a pedestal in the Tomahawk Ridge Community Centre in Overland Park when two boys ran into the room. Security camera footage shows one of the boys running up to the sculpture and hugging it, causing it to fall over. The two boys then ran out of the room and down a hallway.
A few days later, the family received the six-figure bill from the city of Overland Park’s insurance company, claiming the art piece had been damaged without any chance of repair. It also said her failure to monitor her child could be considered negligent.
“I was surprised, absolutely, more so offended, to be called negligent,” Sarah Goodman, the boy’s mom, told ABC News. “They were treating this like a crime scene.”
While the sculpture was not secured to the pedestal, it was held in place by clips, city officials said. And in no way was it considered an interactive piece.
However, Goodman’s argument is that the art display should have been better secured. She also argues that her children were being supervised and that she and her husband were just out of the camera’s frame, she told ABC News.
While this is an unfortunate situation, parenting expert Ann Douglas believes the community centre should bear the bulk of the responsibility.
“If it was that easy for a young child to topple the statue, clearly the statue wasn’t installed properly,” Douglas says. “The museum knew that members of the public would be interacting with the statue. What happened was an accident — and that accident could have just as easily have happened to an adult.”
If the child had been allowed to wander around the exhibit with a can of spray paint, on the other hand, then parents would have been liable for negligence if they didn’t prevent the deliberate cause of vandalism — but this was not a case of vandalism, Douglas stresses.
“We don’t have a full sense of what happened off camera, so I don’t think it’s fair to second-guess the parents on their parenting,” Douglas says. “Some people will argue that the parents should have been standing right beside the boy the entire time, supervising his every action. Yes, that’s the ideal — but, in the real world, parents are momentarily distracted, and it’s often by the needs of another child who needs their care and attention.”
Despite this particular situation, Douglas says it’s always a good idea for parents to talk to their kids about proper behaviour in places that house delicate and expensive items, like a museum.
First, remind your kids that museums (and other places like them) have rules, and it’s important they understand and follow them.
“Encourage them to ask you to clarify the rules if they’re not sure what is or isn’t allowed,” she adds. “But recognize that very young children will need help in remembering to follow these rules.”
Lastly, explain to them why there’s a museum attendant walking around with a walky-talky.
“It’s that person’s job to keep the museum’s treasure safe so that they can be enjoyed by everyone,” she says.
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