Civil Liberties

School District Bans Tag for Reasons of 'Emotional Safety'

Ban everything.


Sad kid

The Mercer Island School District outside of Seattle has banned tag because it is too emotionally and physically dangerous for kids.

In fact, it has banned all games in which kids do not "keep their hands to themselves." In an email note to Q13Fox TV, the district's communications director, Mary Grady, wrote:

"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."

Maybe it's time for the district to give its own brains a break. If tag is so dangerous for mind and body, we have certainly been slow to recognize its menace. An analysis of the Pieter Brueghel painting, "Children's Games" shows Dutch kids playing about 90 different games, tag among them.

Date of painting: 1560.

Once again we have an age-old childhood tradition that is suddenly too dangerous for this generation of kids. How can it be that for 450+ years (and possibly since the beginning of time), kids played this very same game, but today's youngsters are just too fragile to handle it?

Because, as psychologist and author Peter Gray so often reminds us: No other era that has ever underestimated children to this extent.

What's more, our rule-makers do this with a condescending smile that says it is for the sweet children's sake that we treat them like bonsai trees—delicate, beloved, in need of constant attention, and stunted.