Efforts to eliminate playground violence and bullying have led to a ‘zero tolerance’ stance in many school districts. Recently, a school in Washington state has taken such restrictions to a new level: a ban on tag.
It’s called the hands off policy and it is reminiscent of the No Touching! rule of Arrested Development. The stated aim of the rule is to ensure the emotional and physical safety of all children while at school.
“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,” said a statement issued by the Mercer Island district spokesman.
“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.”
The situation has been confusing to say the least. School officials insist that the new rule does not ban tag. However, children must keep their hands and feet to themselves, both inside and outside the classroom, or be reprimanded. The official statement by the school only adds to the confusion:
“We plan to support our elementary students with new games and alternatives that still involve running and exercising. 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.”
Parents are exacerbated by the restrictions and have formed a Facebook group to respond to the silly new rule.
“Good grief, our kids need some unstructured playtime,” said a student mother Kelsey Joyce. “It’s a game that practically everyone has played – but if you go to public school on Mercer Island, keep your hands to yourself.
“I totally survived tag,” said Joyce. “I even survived red rover, believe it or not.”
Many studies show that, rather than promote safety and security, zero-tolerance policies are mainly used as a technique for teachers to punish students.