Virginia Elementary School Halts Game of Tag Due to 'Intense Aggression'

Some northern Virginia elementary school students are getting a time-out from tag.

The principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean told students this month that they are not allowed to play the game of chasing and yelling "You're it!" at recess after determining the playground pastime had gotten out of hand.

Principal Robyn Hooker said she noticed that tag was sending too many students to the nurse's office. She hopes to restore tag — as well as touch football, which also is on hold — after administrators review recess policies.

The issue has divided parents. Some say it's best to err on the side of caution; others say the ban on tag is an example of overaggressive rulemaking that undermines children's development.

"We are regulating the fun out of normal childhood activity," said Jan van Tol, father of a Kent Gardens sixth-grader. "In our effort to be so overprotective, we are not letting children be children."

Fairfax County public schools' office of risk management has a list of activities that are prohibited at any school-sponsored events. Besides bungee-jumping and scuba diving, students are not permitted to break dance or play dodge ball or tug-of-war. Restrictions on tag are less common.

"This is not the old-fashioned tag, where you could use two fingers and you would be it and move on to someone else," Hooker said. The game has become much more aggressive, she said, and involves grabbing people who do not necessarily know they are playing and possibly bumping them to the ground.

"They pile on each other. (Sometimes) they call it 'jailhouse' or 'jailbreak,"' because the child has to break out, she said.

Since the ban on tag began, physical education teachers have begun a "chasing, fleeing and dodging" unit in first through fifth grades. Students essentially play variations of tag, and the teachers remind them about safety rules and point out athletic skills they can transfer to other sports.

Stephanie Sullenger, president of the Kent Gardens PTA, supports the principal. Sullenger said she suspects that children are acting out because of "spring fever," and that tag will be restored as their behavior improves.