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Schools Try to Ban Tag, and Parents Aren't Having It

Photograph by Twenty20

What is this world coming to—our kids can't even play tag anymore? Recently, Washington's Mercer Island School District (between Seattle and Bellevue) declared the game too rough and potentially violent for kids because it incorporates touching.

When parents heard about the ban in elementary schools, they formed formed a group called STAR MI "Support 'Tag' At Recess in Mercer Island" currently with over 400 members. "Our group believes 'tag' and other child-led games encourage independence and much needed activity," reads the page's description.

"Good grief, our kids need some unstructured playtime," mom Kelsey Joyce said. "It's a game that practically everyone has played—but if you go to public school on Mercer Island, keep your hands to yourself."

According to the Washington Post, the school district spokesman issued this statement:

"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."

After all the backlash, the school district posted a memo to clarify:

"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."

So ... tag is not banned. But they still don't want kids touching. Is it still considered tag then? And how can you determine who's "it"? Will "air tags" suffice? And most importantly, if our schools had banned tag in our time, would the upcoming comedy "Tag" even exist?

So many hard questions. The good news is, we don't have to answer them. The tag support group ended up winning (go parents, go!), and the traditional game returned to school playgrounds on Mercer Island.

This wasn't the first time schools have banned tag though. In 2013, a Canadian school banned kindergarteners from playing tag and holding hands, and an elementary school in New Hampshire banned tag because of injuries, also saying it violated the school's longtime "no contact" rule for recess games.

"To ban tag is just ridiculous. ... They say the kids are overly aggressive—take the overly aggressive kids out of the game," Bill Chisholm, dad of then-fourth-grader in New Hampshire said. "No parent wants to minimize the injury of a child; however, there isn't a single childhood activity that any kid could participate in that doesn't have the risk of injury."

Talk about a touchy subject.

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