School district bans game of TAG to protect kids’ ‘physical and emotional safety’: Parents unite!

playing-tagThe game of tag is now banned at a Washington state school district in order to protect the students’ “physical and emotional safety.”

The decision to ban the age-old children’s game on the playgrounds of Mercer Island School District has some parents pretty upset — especially as they weren’t consulted on the new rule.

“Good grief, our kids need some unstructured playtime,” mom Kelsey Joyce told local station Q13 Fox. “I totally survived tag. I even survived red rover, believe it or not,” she added.

“I played tag,” mom Melissa Neher told the station, “I survived.”

Instead of games like tag, signs posted outside the elementary schools encourage the kids to participate in league sports teams.

“In this day and age of childhood obesity, there’s a need for more activity,” said Neher, who has two children in Mercer Island public schools. “Kids should be free to have spontaneous play on the playground at recess. It’s important for their learning.”

She created a Facebook page to help spread the word, and in the first 24 hours, hundreds of moms and dads joined the group.

“This decision needs to be reevaluated with input from the kids and from the community,” Neher told Q13.

The school district 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.


Since the ban went into effect, Joyce’s son no longer uses recess for physical activity, which concerns her.

“He has been spending most of his recesses wandering around with his friend talking about video games, which is the last thing I want him to be doing,” she said.

UPDATE: Parents united from all over the country to express outrage after the story was made public. Mercer Island School District backed down on Friday with this new statement:

September 25, 2015 – The ‘hands-off’ policy intended for unstructured play and recess however well intended, has led to confusion, false reporting and is clearly not supported by many staff and many parents. Although the plan was focused on keeping students safe, it lacked stakeholder participation and support. The expectations for student behavior both in and out of our classrooms can be found in the published Students Rights and Responsibilities. Playground rules and expectations can also be found in each school’s handbook.

Tag as we know it and have known it is reinstated. In addition, students may continue to play “flag tag” as they wish. Other respectful games that involve appropriate physical interaction are also encouraged. Our school principals and teachers will work with our students as they imagine and develop new games for play.

Each school principal will reach out to his/her parent community and staff to determine whether or not expectations during unstructured playtime are well known and shared. If changes need to be made, stakeholder input will be sought at each school. In addition, elementary principals will seek student input and feedback on these expectations to demonstrate ownership in their learning.

Yes, we are a learning organization, too.


Watch the clip, via Q13 Fox.


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