Ban on ‘Tag’: Are school children getting the right playtime?

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ban on ‘Tag’: Are school children getting the right playtime?.

The playground game of “Tag” was temporarily banned at a Washington elementary school, but the ban was met by parent protests at a time when school recess is considered by many educators as one of the keys to better test scores. Tag was banned on the island earlier this week, with district communications director Mary Grady telling Q13 news that “… students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.” The school district, usually in the news for athletic achievements, found itself lampooned across the country. “Yes — tag. They’re often well-intentioned ways to cut down on violence and bullying and the like, and they’ve been driven in part by fear of school shootings. As in, the game that involves running and being tapped, which is far less than what I endure any time I take public transportation,” wrote Katherine Timpf in National Review Online. “Tag, as we know it and have known it, is reinstated,” the district said in a statement. “In addition, students may continue to play ‘flag tag’ as they wish.

One parent started a Facebook group called “STAR MI (Support ‘Tag’ At Recess in Mercer Island).” The group had more than 400 members Friday afternoon. “The kids had been told not to play tag, and I think they were really bummed,” Joyce said. “To be honest, kids get hurt on the playground. The Mercer Island School District, located in an affluent suburb of Seattle, told students ‒ but not parents ‒ that tag was off-limits at the beginning of the school year. But they’ve also led to bizarre rulings — the third-grade girl in Delaware expelled for a year because her mother sent a knife in with a birthday cake, the Baltimore second-grader suspended because his Pop-Tart looked like a gun, the kids who get in serious trouble for bringing cough drops or mouthwash to school, to say nothing of Ahmed Mohamed. Because the policies are entirely inflexible – that “zero” part – the decisions often seem like they’re made by a machine, not a human being with a sense of balance and judgment and what we used to think of as common sense. While striking a defensive crouch — as with any bureaucracy defending itself — the district fessed up to making a mistake, implementing a rule that wasn’t “tagged” by those it was supposed to protect. “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.

As Ian Urbina wrote in the New York Times: Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Although this plan was focused on keeping students safe, it lacked stakeholder participation and support,” said the district’s statement. “Each school principal will reach out to his/her parent community and staff to determine whether or not expectations during unstructured play time are well known and shared. It’s important for their learning.” “Good grief, our kids need some unstructured playtime,” another mom, Kelsey Joyce, told KCPQ. “I totally survived tag. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses. “The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence.

Many schools tried to improve standardized test scores by cutting recess time several years ago, but elementary school principals realized that play time had actually helped test performance, The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2010. Other districts around the nation have banned contact games and, in some cases, balls and other playground equipment, as education officials try to balance safety with playtime, said Jonathan Blasher, executive director of the nonprofit Playworks. I even survived red rover, believe it or not.” “He has been spending most of his recesses wandering around with his friend talking about video games, which is the last thing I want him to be doing,” she said. Our hope has always been and continues to be an expectation that students respect others’ personal space and respect their individual and unique differences.” At that time, more than 80 percent of principals said recess improved academic achievement, according to a Gallup survey. “I think a game like tag is wonderful,” Playworks Director Jonathan Blasher told the Seattle Times. “You can play it almost anywhere, it’s universal.

For all the criticism, though, most of these policies have barely budged. (In some cases, individual cases have been reversed, including the girl with the birthday cake.) But a strange dispatch from the Northwest both shows just how bad things have gotten and how a pushback against one aspect of zero-tolerance policies may be building. A mere shout of ‘you’re it?’ How close would the existing ‘it’ have to be to the target ‘it’ before a shout of ‘you’re it’ is permitted?” The idea was to both free teachers and administrators from breaking up fights and help children return to class rejuvenated and with a few life skills. School staffs are working with students in the classroom to ensure that there are many alternative games available at recess and during unsupervised play, so that our kids can still have fun, be with their friends, move their bodies and give their brains a break.

We want to initiate a new form of tag-like running games to minimize the issues of “you were tagged / no I wasn’t” or “the tag was too hard and felt more like a hit.” Tag is not banned. Let’s hope Mercer Island’s parents keep stirring up resistance here to the notion of “tag-like running games.” If they restore tag today, maybe schools will someday be safe again for Pop-Tarts, mouthwash and homemade clocks?

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