School Bans Tag To Protect The 'Emotional Well-Being' Of Kids

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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A Washington school district is banning kids from playing tag during recess. The decision has parents upset about their kids not getting enough activity along with the general silliness of banning a game as innocent as tag. The school’s intentions may be good, but this is shaping up to be a major fail on their part.

The Mercer Island School District made the new rule in an effort to get students to keep their hands to themselves. From an email to Q13Fox from the school’s communications director, Mary Grady:

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. 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.

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.”

District parent Kelsey Joyce tells Q13Fox that kids need “unstructured playtime” adding, “I totally survived tag. I even survived red rover, believe it or not.” She’s being sarcastic, but she makes a solid point. The school is going overboard in trying to protect the “physical and emotional safety” of their students. What could be more important than being sure kids get plenty of exercise and a chance to run out energy so they can focus better in the classroom? Sadly, Joyce says of her tag-loving son, “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.” I’m not surprised — my six-year-old would do the same thing if left to his own devices. They only get 20 minutes for recess and it should be spent running around.

The school is right that students should never hurt each other, but this is tag! It’s not tackle football. A little human contact in the form of a tap is not going to emotionally damage anyone. If a particular game gets out of control, can’t a playground aide or teacher intervene? Tag is such a great playground game because any number of kids can play and no teams or equipment are needed. It should always be an option for kids for those reasons. This is simply an extreme measure that will do more harm than good.

Luckily, parents are taking action. In response to the new rule, district mom Melissa Neher created a Facebook page to alert other parents of the ban and within a day, hundreds of them joined. The main concern is the fact that the school didn’t ask for parent input before deciding to do away with tag. Neher says, “This decision needs to be reevaluated with input from the kids and from the community.” Hopefully, the parents’ actions result in the school hearing their concerns and possibly reversing this unpopular decision.

We talk about kids not playing outside enough and whether or not that’s true, it’s a fact that childhood obesity is on the rise. Discouraging kids from running around isn’t the answer. If a game of tag becomes violent or overly touchy, it can be stopped. And if tag bothers one child who doesn’t like being touched, he or she can always opt out. It’s good to be aware of a child’s right to bodily autonomy but this is taking things too far in the other direction, to the kids’ detriment.

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