Why this school district banned the game ‘tag’ from the playground

The entirety of Mercer Island School District in Washington state recently banned an activity that administrators claim poses physical and emotional danger to students. Nope, it’s not bullying. It’s not Algebra. And it’s not reading the ending of Where the Red Fern Grows.

It’s tag.

That’s right. The communications director for the district, Mary Grady, explained to KCPQ-TV why schools would put a halt on such a rich, age-old playground tradition. “This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time,” she said, “students are expected to keep their hands to themselves.”

Usually “keeping your hands to yourself,” applies to pushing, shoving, kicking, hitting, pulling other people’s pigtails, and picking other people’s noses. Tag, at least with the rules I remember, doesn’t involve any of those moves. The school district did not cite any incidents where its students complained of suffering “physical and emotional” harm from playing tag, but maybe in Washington state, children play tag like this …

Parents were understandably upset by the ban on tag, concerned that their kids won’t be getting enough exercise at school. One mom mentioned the high rate of childhood obesity, implying that more tag (as in running from someone who is “it” as though your life depends on it) might mean fitter youngin’s. A local elementary school is displaying posters encouraging students to join after school sports teams, with literally no regard for how much being the worst player on your 5th grade soccer team can cause more physical and emotional damage than any “tag, no tag backs.” Not that I would know.
Super mom and tag advocate Melissa Neher created a Facebook page to inform other parents about the new ban. “I played tag, [and] I survived,” said Neher to KCPQ. “Kids should be free to have spontaneous play on the playground at recess. It’s important for their learning.”

Within 24 hours after the Facebook page was made, the district announced that it was renouncing its tag ban. Hopefully, tag is here to stay and the higher-ups of Mercer Island School District don’t decide to go after hoola-hooping next.

(Images via here, here, and here.)

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