An open letter to USD 410 regarding the mental health risks of recess games

To whom it may concern:

Whether you want it publicly known or not, my entire K-12 education occurred in Hillsboro and USD 410. I had my ups and downs, but I really didn?t have any complaints . . . until now.

It has only recently been brought to my attention that I was subjected to unusually harsh and unusual punishment during those critical, formative years.

I?m talking about the damage that was done to my psyche because of having played games like tag during recess. And make no mistake, throughout the course of my educational experience, the school district not only allowed, but encouraged the playing of those games.

Here I thought we were merely playing games and having fun, but apparently we were having our self-esteem crushed.

Go figure.

I haven?t discussed these concerns with current staff, but perhaps I should as one of my boys is currently in fifth grade and the other is in preschool. My life may have been messed up, but there?s still time to help my boys.

For the uninformed, many schools across the country have stopped playing dodge ball because apparently it?s demeaning.

Personally, I found the game to be more frustrating than demeaning because half of the kids didn?t catch the ball, and we spent more time chasing after it than hitting people with it.

But that?s not all. Now we have elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., that have banned playing tag at recess this year?

Others, including a suburban Charleston, S.C., school dumped contact sports such as soccer and touch football because children suffered broken arms and dislocated fingers playing the games.

Never mind that kids also have been known to get hurt on playground equipment. One option would be to banish exercise entirely and require kids to play computer games instead. Of course, that could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain, so nothing is truly safe.

According to an assistant principal in Colorado Springs, playing tag ?causes a lot of conflict on the playground.?

And at Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne, Principal Cindy Farwell prohibited tag at recess because it ?progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching.?

But not all educators are against kids playing and having fun. Critics say playing freely helps kids learn to negotiate rules and resolve disputes. One education professor said, ?They learn to change and to problem-solve.?

Joe Frost, emeritus professor of early childhood education at the University of Texas-Austin, sees playground restrictions as harmful.

?You?re taking away the physical development of the children,? he said. ?Having time for play is essential for children to keep their weight under control.?

Of course, if tag is inappropriate, all games should be banned during recess. After all, there are always winners and losers when kids play games, and the losing team might have its feelings hurt.

I won?t argue that the pendulum has swung too far on occasion when it comes to competi?tion and the overemphasis of sports, but banishing childhood games like tag during recess is education run amok.

According to reliable sources (my son), many kids still play games during recess in Hills?boro. And Ryan still thinks recess is fun.

Sounds like a chip off the old block, because I had fun playing games during recess, too. Those who didn?t want to play games during recess did something else. Is that so bad?

On second thought, I?m not entirely sure if I was messed up by my recess experience. Maybe it?s too soon to tell. Can I get back to you in 10 years when I?ve grown up? In the meantime, tag, you?re it.

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