A school district in Washington state has banned tag on the playgrounds, saying kids need to "keep their hands to themselves."

By Ellen Sturm Niz
September 25, 2015
girl chasing boy playing tag
Credit: Shutterstock

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I played a game called "Boys Against Girls" at recess. It was basically a team version of tag, and dividing the teams by gender was just an easy way to know who was on what team. There was no gender war happening, and, in fact, there were more girls in my class than boys, so we had the advantage. Our game also had both genders playing together as opposed to the girls jumping rope in one area while the boys did whatever they did in another.

When the teachers got wind of our game, however, they put a stop to it. I suppose I understand their concerns: they thought it sounded bad and was pitting the genders against each other, but really it was completely innocent. Despite our arguments that it was all in good fun, they told us we couldn't play it anymore. So, back to jumping rope for the girls and back to something else for the boys. (Seriously, I have no idea what the boys were playing over there.)

I was reminded of "Boys Against Girls" today when I read an article about how the Mercer Island School District in Washington has banned tag on the playground.

"The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety," said the district's communications director in an email to a local news station. "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."

Seriously, students are expected to "keep their hands to themselves?" Have the school officials been listening to that Georgia Satellites' song from the 80s? Tag is not exactly a rough contact sport. Sure, sometimes kids can tag each other a little too hard when running after someone, but children are not delicate vases—they can handle a little touching. Like with my elementary school teachers banning "Boys Against Girls," the Mercer Island School District's decision seems like an overreaction to a perceived threat that doesn't actually exist. Were a lot of kids getting injured when tagged? I doubt it. Did some? Probably. I'm sure some kids also got injured tripping on the stairs. Should they ban stair-climbing, too?

Kids in Mercer Island told their parents about the ban on tag, and in less than 24 hours hundreds of moms and dads joined a Facebook page created so parents could voice their concerns over the ban and ask the school district to reevaluate their decision with input froms kids and the community. I hope this helps the district come to its senses and allow tag again. It's an innocent game and certainly not a safety issue.

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who really loved playing "Boys Against Girls." Check out Ellen's new Etsy shop and follow her onTwitter and Pinterest.