Sorry Kids, No Tag Allowed

Recess at one Seattle-area school district nearly lost one of its greats. No, this is not some legendary tike who almost retired from some sport. It’s the game of tag, the latest victim of modernity run amok.

Mercer Island School District temporarily banned students from playing the game of tag citing the physical and emotional danger it could present. The run-and-touch game was deemed unsafe by the district when recently reviewing policy.

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety,” said Mary Grady, district communications director. “This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.”

This led to an outcry from parents who did not understand how tag could be detrimental to playtime activity.

“I totally survived tag,” Kelsey Joyce, one of the mothers, told Q13. “I even survived red rover, believe it or not.”

The frustration grew as parents noticed a sign at one of the schools encouraging children to sign up for sports teams, just feet away from the patch of grass where they were not allowed to play the individual game many deem less violent and more aligned to the 30-60 minutes of outdoor recreation kids get during the school day.

Anger spilled onto the Internet, too, as Melissa Neher, one of the mom’s, created a Facebook group to discuss the ban and make plans to overturn what they have deemed a poor decision.

Fortunately for the moms, and the students disheartened from the prohibition, the school district relented and reinstated the sports.

The ‘hands-off’ policy intended for unstructured play and recess however well intended, has led to confusion, false reporting and is clearly not supported by many staff and many parents. Although the plan was focused on keeping students safe, it lacked stakeholder participation and support. The expectations for student behavior both in and out of our classrooms can be found in the published Students Rights and Responsibilities. Playground rules and expectations can also be found in each school’s handbook.

Tag as we know it and have known it is reinstated. In addition, students may continue to play “flag tag” as they wish. Other respectful games that involve appropriate physical interaction are also encouraged. Our school principals and teachers will work with our students as they imagine and develop new games for play.

Each school principal will reach out to his/her parent community and staff to determine whether or not expectations during unstructured playtime are well known and shared. If changes need to be made, stakeholder input will be sought at each school. In addition, elementary principals will seek student input and feedback on these expectations to demonstrate ownership in their learning.

Yes, we are a learning organization, too.

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