A Michigan elementary school is enforcing a new “no tag, no chasing” policy following growing concerns over possible injuries. The controversial decision is accompanied by a letter clarifying the risks associated with “running in packs, pushing, knocking other children over, and making the game dangerous." Failure to comply is met with removal from play and a letter home.
"We want our children to treat each other with respect, kindness, and with safety in mind," said Ginger Smith, community relations manager for the K-5 Zeeland, Mich. public school that currently serves 425 students.
According to school officials, the rule is in place to limit the dangers of rough play among younger students. They hope that a ban on popular, "dangerous" games like push-tag will cause students to gravitate towards safer alternatives.
"Yesterday we took the entire kindergarten group and modeled the correct expectations for appropriate recess behavior and demonstrated examples of safe, fun play," school officials wrote in a letter. "All students at New Groningen are expected to treat others with respect and kindness. When a negative behavior is recognized, the staff handles each situation with care and concern."
Although the ban has not yet been subject to any direct complaints, at least one parent has contacted the media about the new policy, MLive reported.
The school’s safety effort is the latest in a long line of attempts to regulate play among students. In 2011, the New York State Health Department ran a short-lived campaign against whiffle ball, dodgeball, capture-the-flag, horseshoes, and other games considered to pose “significant risk to injury.” However, after vehement opposition from lawmakers, the department decided to scrap the proposal.
Some opponents believe that such legislature will impose undue burdens on youth organizations promoting exercise. After school programs and team sports running “dangerous” games would need to conform to the same expensive safety regulations as summer camps. For many organizations, hiring a medical professional and a director with a bachelor’s degree would be unfeasible.
Others claim that the games themselves are not inherently dangerous, and that most can be perfectly safe with proper instruction. Calzet Liburd, program director at Playworks, said that injuries occur when kids don’t know how the game is played.
"Part of the danger during play is because kids don't know how to play certain games. No one is teaching them,” he said, speaking to LiveScience. "So they're coming up with their own ways based on what they see on TV or what they hear."