Battle Over Playground Balls Boils Over in Poway

A Poway man, angry over what he considers inaction by the Poway Unified School District, has stirred up controversy by posting signs facing a school playground.

“I want this problem to end,“ Scott Rings said as he showed NBC 7 San Diego the posters he put up on his property Thursday.

He estimates over the last 10 years 1,700 balls have landed on his property bordering Midland Elementary School.

He said the problem of wayward balls began as soon as the school opened in 2006. Then, two years ago, Rings' says his dog may have been killed by a basketball but there is no proof.

On Thursday, Rings put up two white banners facing the playground with “Your basketball killed my dog” and “Keep your balls off my property” in large black letters.

Near the banners were two images of dogs. Some children thought one image showed the dead dog.

“You start crossing the line when you target kids, when you’re communicating directly to the kids,” said parent Aubrey Paris. “It’s beyond disturbing and inappropriate.”

A school custodian rolled out white boards to block the view of students.  PTA parents also put up blue tarps along a chain link fence to block the signs.

Parents who talked with NBC 7 say they were upset that the school and the district did not take action sooner.

“It’s very upsetting to think that my child for three hours yesterday was in danger. They were sitting ducks on that playground and no one was told,” said parent Kelly Menck.

Principal Sidia Martinez informed parents Friday saying, “The posters do not make direct threats to our students or staff.”

That was a message reiterated by Poway Unified School District spokesperson Christine Paik.

“There was no threat in those posters. Obviously the images in there were disturbing,” Paik said, adding that counselors were made available to talk with students who may have been upset about the signs.

“I don’t blame the kids at all. I’ve never blamed the kids for a single ball that’s come over,” Rings told NBC 7.

He said that he expected the district office to send someone to his home to discuss the problem.

The district put up the chain link fence to remedy the problem, Rings said, but children play wall ball against it and balls still land in his yard.

“We are very aware of this neighbor,” Paik said, explaining that the district has been working with him to find a solution.

“He seemed satisfied with the resolution of that fence going up. I’m not sure what triggered it but this was a new move on his part,” Paik said.

Parent Jovan Gonzales talked with NBC 7 about the conflict as he arrived for the school's Carnival Night. He said his wife told him to be on alert.

“I think it’s uncalled for. There’s better venues to handle these types of situations and unfortunately in this case he didn’t handle it the right way,” Gonzales said.

Rings said he now feels unsafe because of the reaction to the signs.

“I’m feeling concerned because a lot of anger from the parents coming at me that I did not intend at all,” Rings said.

Rings’ roommates Jessie Malbaney and Amber Grigsby agree that there have been an unusual number of wayward balls over the year.

However, they feel the response to the signs has been blown out of proportion.

Paik said there has been a meeting set up next week between Rings and district officials to address the posters.

For now, students will be on a modified recess where they will be kept away from one side of the playground and will have limited ball activity.

“These are kids. They are playing in the playground. Balls are going to go over into his yard. He lives near a school,” Paik said.

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