Criminalizing Playtime; Schools Are Banning Children from Playing Traditional Games Now Deemed Too Violent or Exclusionary. Civil-Rights Activists Say the Punishments Are Worse Than the Crimes. (Education)

By Sorokin, Ellen | Insight on the News, April 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Criminalizing Playtime; Schools Are Banning Children from Playing Traditional Games Now Deemed Too Violent or Exclusionary. Civil-Rights Activists Say the Punishments Are Worse Than the Crimes. (Education)


Sorokin, Ellen, Insight on the News


Public-school officials nationwide are banning children from playing cops and robbers, citing zero-tolerance policies for anything resembling violence at school. Children are being suspended or expelled, and civil-rights activists argue the policies are too harsh because they punish first and ask questions later.

"I think the schools are paranoid, and the policies just don't work" says John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, an international legal and educational organization representing several students. Other games recently banned from school playgrounds include duck, duck, goose; musical chairs; steal the bacon; and tag -- all said to encourage exclusion, theft, bullying, aggression and competition. Among those punished:

* A 9-year-old boy in California who was threatened with suspension when officials caught him playing cops and robbers. The boy's father, an Army sergeant, removed his son from class to pre-empt the principal from suspending him.

* Two second-grade students in New York, who were suspended and criminally charged with making terrorist threats for pointing paper guns and saying, "I'm going to kill you." The criminal charges were dropped.

* An 8-year-old boy in Arkansas who was suspended for pointing a chicken finger at a teacher and saying "pow, pow."

* A 9-year-old boy in New Jersey, who was suspended and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after telling a classmate of his plans to shoot a fellow classmate with spitballs. Police questioned the boy but did not file charges.

* Four kindergartners in New Jersey, who were suspended after they pretended their fingers were guns and said they wanted to shoot one another. …

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