The Arizona Republic
Kids call "Not it!" when they gather to play tag, and some may never be "it" as a growing number of Valley schools ban the game at recess.
Tag joins the list of childhood games such as dodgeball and tackle football no longer allowed at schools across the country because of too many injuries and squabbles.
"Tagging turns into shoving, and someone's crying, 'He pushed me!' " said Cindy Denton, principal at Thew Elementary School in Tempe, where chasing games are prohibited except in gym class under adult supervision. advertisement
Last year, schools in Boston; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Spokane, Wash., banned tag, joining schools in Wichita, Kan.; San Jose; and Beaverton, Ore., that had done so.
Half of the 17 schools surveyed in the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix allow tag. At one, Acacia Elementary, children can play tag, but they can't touch each other. They stomp on each other's shadows instead.
The bans are for safety and civility, though some worry that kids may not get enough exercise or enjoy a childhood rite of passage.
Acacia Principal Christine Hollingsworth started a "no-touch" policy four years ago.
"There's a need for kids to be active, but we were seeing an increase in the number of kids being pushed down and hurt," she said.
The only exception to the "no-touch" policy is that the older boys are allowed to play two-hand touch football with adult supervision on the far side of the playground.
Since starting the policy, injuries have dropped dramatically, and Hollingsworth no longer is called on to settle fights that had escalated from an unintentional too-hard tag.
Kids often get hurt playing tag, said Sharon Roland, the nurse at Jack L. Kuban School in southwest Phoenix and vice president of the School Nurses Organization of Arizona.
They split their chins, scrape their noses and graze their knees, the expected injuries of childhood. But they also knock out teeth and fracture bones.
E'Lisa Harrison's son, Grant, was 8 when he was pushed and fell during a game of tag at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School in Phoenix. It was an accident, but Grant spent weeks with a cast on his arm, missing out on a season of baseball.
Kids still play tag at his school but no roughness is allowed.
Kim Yamamoto's son, Cameron, 11, also broke his arm on the playground when he was in fourth grade, though he was playing Red Rover, not tag, at Challenge Charter School in Glendale.
Students there can play football, soccer and other contact sports only in gym class. Yamamoto said she thinks it's a shame.
"I remember the skinned knees and bumps and bruises from playground activities. I would not have given up any to experience the fun we had at school," she said.
"We need to remember that these are kids who need fun in their day. If we control every aspect of the time on campus, are we limiting the student's access to being kids and exploring their world?"
With 700 students at Aca- cia, Principal Hollingsworth knows someone is bound to get hurt. But, as the kids proved, there are ways of playing classic games without putting their hands on each other.
Hollingsworth hasn't had any complaints from parents. Nor has Denton, the principal at Thew. There are plenty of other things for kids to do on the playground - four square, swinging, climbing, soccer and basketball - to burn energy.
At recess Monday at Acacia, fourth-grader Raeanna Wilkinson stood on the basketball court surrounded by girls. She's "it." The rules, she explains, are that you can't touch anyone and you can't argue if someone says they got you.
"Scatter," Raeanna says, and the girls run.
"Shadow tag" is like regular tag, but instead of touching players to get them out, whoever is "it" stomps on their shadow. In another version, whoever is "it" stomps on a shadow and yells, "Frozen!" Frozen players must stay still until someone sets them free by running through their shadow.
Ten minutes into the game, the girls shed their jackets and sweat shirts.
Yulissa Urias, 9, said, "In regular tag, people push, and you fall down and you get hurt."
Now no one gets hurt, said Diane Hernandez, 9. And the game is more challenging because the angle of the sun can make it hard to get to people's shadows when they're running, even if you are close enough to tag them.