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Playground signs translated into Spanish removed amid racism concerns

Flickr, delawaredem

In the weaving way of Web justice, the small town of Milford, Del., is receiving some unwelcome – and deserving – viral shaming after signs posted beside two school playgrounds made the digital rounds, prompting hundreds of online comments.

The top sign announced in block-letter English that parental supervision is required for use of playground equipment. The Spanish sign below says something quite different: Essentially, it states, "You must get permission to play in this field." And in smaller letters below, even worse, warns that "violators will be subject to police action."

The picture of the offending signs, which were apparently up for a year, says it all.

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The signs went viral when a Daly Kos blogger drew attention to them, after falling upon a picture posted by a Facebook friend, who had learned of them in another post by conservative talk show host Dan Gaffney. (The local paper also followed up with a story.)

The Latino Rebels website rather generously entitled their story "When Translations Go Bad," but it's hard to understand how an English sign stating that parental supervision is required to use playground equipment could end up being translated into: play here without a permit and you might get arrested. (And since when does anyone need a permit to play on a public school playground?)

Once word of the signs spread, however, Milford School District superintendent Phyllis Kohel went out and took down the Spanish signs herself – so a happy ending resulted. ("People power wins again!" one commentator said.)

Kohel told News Journal of Wilmington that it's possible the Spanish wording was copied from signs posted at sports fields, which do in fact require a permit.

While no one for sure knows how the signs got there, word has spread across the Web for people to be on the lookout for more examples. There's no shortage of voices ready to take them down.

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Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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