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October 15. 2013 8:48PM

Nashua’s school ban on game of tag brings lots of calls, advice

NASHUA — Charlotte Avenue Elementary School has received an onslaught of calls asking for information and offering opinions on the school’s ban on the game of tag.

“Almost all of the calls have been from the media or concerned citizens,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad, who added he knew of no calls from parents with children at Charlotte Avenue Elementary.

“This isn’t a concern within the school community,” he said.

That may be because the ban on tag at Charlotte Elementary is nothing new. Many parents were probably already aware that a decision to keep the game off the playground was made several years ago, he said.

And parents may not have officially complained to the district or the school, but not everyone is happy with the rules. Bill Chisholm who has a fourth-grade son at Charlotte Avenue, has said the ban on tag goes too far.

“Everything is structured. Kids don’t have a chance to go off and be kids anymore,” said Chisholm in a telephone interview last week.

Conrad said the school’s recess rules became a “media event” after Principal Patricia Beaulieu posted a letter on the school’s website reminding parents that tag was not allowed on the playground. Beaulieu’s letter was written in the wake of eight playground injuries, including broken bones and concussions, since the opening of school, according to the superintendent.

“The decision on playground rules is left up to the individual principals of each school,” said Conrad. “Those decisions are based on the size of the classes, the configuration of the playground and other factors.”

Conrad said other schools in the district that have similar safety rules that limit play on school grounds. And Nashua is hardly the only community limiting play in the interest of student safety. Schools throughout the country are setting similar safety rules.

Last week, a school on Long Island, N.Y. not only banned tag but also forbade cartwheels and tossing hard balls, such as footballs.

Earlier this year, Windham made headlines when school officials cut dodge ball and nine other “human target” games from the district’s gym classes. Administrators feared the games encouraged bullying. But after a special committee reviewed the games, the Windham School Board voted last June to reinstate them, only with new names. In Windham, kids still play dodge ball, prison ball and slaughter, only now they call those games “cage ball,” “repair shop” and “numero uno.”

Chisholm said he takes all injuries of kids seriously, but he suggested that monitoring aggressive kids or asking parents to sign a waiver freeing the school from any potential liability were steps the school could take rather than banning tag.

Other parents have said the ban on tag is not a big deal, and Board of Education members have expressed support for Beaulieu.

“If I was a parent and my child got hurt, I would be very unhappy,” said Board of Education member Steven Haas.

While the public may see a ban on tag as an example of schools overreaching to create a risk-free environment, Haas said that school administrators and teachers, who are on the front lines of school playgrounds, are better judges of how to run recess.

"The principals are responsible for student behavior,” Haas said. “They can set whatever rules they feel they need to have for a safe playground; it’s their discretion.”

Haas and Conrad both said they understood that a ban on tag strikes a nerve with adults who grew up with the game and lived to tell the tale.

“But times have changed,” said Haas. “Right now, we live in a litigious environment. School boards and principals know that anything they do can bring a parent in, with a lawyer.”

btaormina@newstote.com


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