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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Schoolyard game of tag banned at Nashua’s Charlotte Avenue Elementary School

NASHUA – In the game of tag at the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, no one gets to be “it.”

The elementary school has banned kids from playing the childhood game during recess, tagging safety as a concern. ...

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NASHUA – In the game of tag at the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, no one gets to be “it.”

The elementary school has banned kids from playing the childhood game during recess, tagging safety as a concern.

“We want them running, we want them jumping and releasing the energy, but just in a safe way,” Principal Patricia Beaulieu said.

Last week, Beaulieu posted a letter on the school’s website and on a school Facebook group informing parents of the school’s safety policies.

“The traditional recess game ‘tag,’ involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hand,” Beaulieu wrote in the letter posted Oct. 4. “Seems innocent enough, however the force with which students ‘tag’ varies greatly, and this game, in particular, has been banned in many schools in the United States due primarily to concerns about injuries.”

Beaulieu said the school rule for recess has always been “no contact,” and the game of tag violates that policy. The letter was posted in an effort to re-emphasize
recess rules, she said.

At least one parent has complained and others have questioned the policy in the Facebook group for parents and teachers of the school.

“Tag is one of the oldest playground games anywhere,” said Bill Chisholm, 43. “To ban tag is just ridiculous; it’s a simple game. They say the kids are overly aggressive – take the overly aggressive kids out of the game.”

Chisholm, whose son Brian is in the fourth grade at Charlotte Avenue, said he believes the school’s decision to remove tag is unnecessary and a violation of student rights.

Beaulieu said nothing has changed with the school’s policy.

“It was my understanding that people felt like the rules had changed and they weren’t notified, whereas the rules hadn’t changed,” she said. “We were reviewing the rules.”

Several concussions, a broken wrist and other tag-related injuries prompted Beaulieu to post the letter, she said.

“It’s funny – I went into fifth-grade lunch and I was talking to all the fifth graders, and I said, ‘Raise your hand if you’ve ever been pushed aggressively while playing tag.’ Most of them raised their hands,” she said.

Chisholm acknowledged that some children may abuse the game but said he doesn’t think the game should be banned from recess entirely.

“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,” he said. “I think we’re just to this point where if one person anywhere has an injury or if one person anywhere is offended, everyone has to stop.”

A meeting was held last Monday with students and staff at the school to discuss the rules, Beaulieu said. The physical education teacher, Al Rivard, was among those present at the meeting.

“It always goes back to safety,” Beaulieu said. “We spent Monday with the nurse, the counselor, and Mr. Rivard meeting with all grade levels about playground games, just so everybody’s on the same page.”

To maintain physical fitness, Beaulieu said, students are encouraged to participate in other activities apart from tag during recess.

“They’re allowed to play soccer … they can do basketball, there’s jump ropes, there’s different balls they can play with, different four square games out there,” Beaulieu said. “It’s really about them being healthy and their well-being.”

Playground policies are determined primarily by school principals and can vary from school to school, said Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad.

“I think for something like playground games, it’s really up to the discretion of the principal at each school to determine the rules that are appropriate,” he said. “For something like tag, you’re looking at the size of the classes, the physical layout of the school grounds.”

Conrad said school recess rules are often discussed between principals and staff members, as well as with the faculty of surrounding schools.

“I think some schools allow it and some don’t,” he said of tag. “We haven’t had district-level conversations on playground games.”

Charlotte Avenue isn’t the only area school to prohibit recess games.

In March, the Windham School District banned dodgeball and other potentially violent activities, according to published reports. They were reinstated in July, and some of the names were changed to sound less violent.

And just this week in Long Island, the use of footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls and other sports equipment was banned at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, N.Y., to avoid student injury, according to a CBS report.

In addition, an elementary school in Grand Rapids, Mich., made national headlines for sending home a similar letter banning the game of tag.

“I think it’s policital correctness,” Chisholm said. “I don’t think this decision is unique to Charlotte Ave.’s principal or to Nashua; I think it’s a trend that’s nationwide that people tend to overreact to this type of thing. I think people need to speak up and say ‘This is wrong.’ We need to let kids be kids.”

Emily Hoyt can be reached at 594-6402 or ehoyt@nashuatelegraph.com.