This morning I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about the playground policies at a Virginia elementary school. I was a little surprised at my reaction: I wasn’t shocked that this happens—I’ve seen similar things first hand. As the head of our school safety committee, I know the kind of thinking that can lead up to this, and I understand the mindset that can bring you to a point where you need to consider banning an activity like tag at recess.
I don’t necessarily agree with the decision—I think it was probably taking things too far, and without knowing all the details, I suspect there were other ways to deal with whatever problems might have been going on. I also know from experience that this kind of problem is generally a symptom of something deeper (perhaps poor supervision on the playground, or something rooted in the school or community culture that was getting expressed in the kids’ play at recess). Banning a playground game seems to me like fixing a mildew problem in your bathroom by not taking any more showers.
What did surprise me, though, was this:
Now, a committee of administrators and teachers has devised a plan to reinstate the game. After a week of “reorientation lessons on playground safety” in physical education classes, classroom discussions of safe recess behavior and monitoring by teachers on the blacktop, students are likely to be yelling “You’re it!” by tomorrow.
It really took a committee (of administrators and teachers, no less) to devise this plan? They had to develop a week’s worth of “reorientation lessons”?
Children need unstructured play time, and this is one of the purposes for having recess in the first place. They also need adequate supervision. The focus of this entire plan was on what was “wrong” with the children. What about the adults who were responsible for monitoring the kids’ play? What about the parents who have the responsibility to instill character values in their children? Where is this kind of approach to school safety likely to take us in the next few years?