We’re used to hearing about schools banning all sorts of things. Sometimes, like with nuts, it makes sense. Other times, like with “best friends”, it doesn’t.
The latest outcry is over an entire school district in the US banning kids from playing tag. Yep, that game where you run around and try to catch other kids and yell out, “You’re it!”
So why the ban on tag? Well, according to the Mercer Island School District in Washington, it was to “ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students”.
“While at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves,” communications director Mary Grady said.
Now I am one of the most overprotective parents around. I am the sort of parent who, if my kids fall asleep on the couch, will put cushions down on the floor in case they roll off. But I play tag with my kids and their friends all the time. I would be horrified if someone tried to stop my kids from playing tag at school.
I mean, we’re not talking kiss chasey here. We’re talking plain, simple tag. Yes, kids do put their hands on each other. That is part of the game.
I'll tell you what I've observed, from playing tag with my kids and their friends. Kids learn stuff pretty quickly. They learn that other kids are faster than they are. They also learn that it's not all about moving fast, it's also about ducking and weaving and outfoxing. They learn that if they don't play nice, other kids won't want to play with them. I've seen some kids tag other kids too hard, more like a slap. They find out, pretty quickly, that it's not okay.
Oh yeah, kids fall over when they play tag, but they don't have far to fall. At least the game gets them moving around. (And me.)
So what happened in Mercer Island when tag got banned? Parents kicked up a fuss. One rang a local radio station to complain that her son now spent recess time walking around talking about video games. They formed a Facebook page to protest the ban.
"Our group believes 'tag' and other child-led games encourage independence and much-needed activity," the group's description said.
Here's a news story about the ban. Post continues after video...
Within days, the school district bowed to parents' pressure.
"Tag, as we know it and have known it, is reinstated," a statement announced.
This isn't the first time tag has been banned. It's even happened, occasionally, at schools in Australia. It'll probably keep happening.
I can understand that schools who ban tag only ever do it with the best of intentions. Sometimes there are issues within the school that need to be dealt with, but there have to be other ways to do it.
If schools are really worried about kids' "physical and emotional safety", let them play tag.
Do your kids play tag?