Virginia School Bans Tag and Touch Football

Virginia School Bans Tag and Touch Football An elementary school in McLean, Virginia (an affluent D.C. suburb) has banned tag and touch football.

Robyn Hooker, principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School, has told students they may no longer play tag during recess after determining that the game of chasing, dodging and yelling “You’re it!” had gotten out of hand. Hooker explained to parents in a letter this month that tag had become a game “of intense aggression.”


Kent Gardens, with more than 900 students, is over capacity. Hooker said the playground can get crowded when there are four or five classes there at one time. Over the past couple of months, she had noticed that tag was taking up too much space and sending too many students to the nurse’s office. “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, she said, has become much more aggressive. “I call it the nouveau tag.” This tag involves grabbing people who do not necessarily know they are playing and possibly bumping them to the ground. “Then the kids do ‘pyramiding’ or ‘towering.’ They pile on each other. [Sometimes] they call it ‘jailhouse’ or ‘jailbreak,’ ” because the child has to break out, she said.

We had a less politically correct name for that when I was growing up but I can assure you there’s nothing “nouveau” about this aside from the ban.

Gerri Swarm, secretary of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, said she was glad the principal was taking seriously student concerns about being pushed or shoved. “In this day and age, you can’t dismiss this as something not to worry about,” she said.

Oh, I think we can.

This isn’t an isolated incident:

Many schools nationwide have whittled down playground activities in response to concerns about injuries, bullying or litigation. Dodge ball is a thing of the past in many places, and contact sports are often limited at recess.

The Fairfax County schools’ office of risk management maintains a list of activities that are prohibited at any school-sponsored events. In addition to 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. Officials at several suburban Washington school systems said they were not aware of any schools that had banned the game outright.

I can see banning bungee-jumping and scuba diving, given the seriousness of the risks and liabilities. But tug-of-war?


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. rodney dill says:

    I remember fairly recently a news report, I think at a junior school, where someone had wrapped a rope around their hand for tug-of-war and essentially lost several fingers or a hand in the process. I think the report used the word ‘severed.’ My curiosity is up so now I will have to google it.

  2. rodney dill says:
  3. Paul says:

    I see they blame it in part on overcrowding. It would be nice if one of the nation’s richest counties would instead simply invest enough in its schools so that the kids had enough room to play the way kids have for generations. Property tax revenues have doubled in less than a decade, the median household income of $100K+ is the highest in the country, and yet the county still doesn’t fully fund all-day kindergarten like we are Bangladesh and can’t afford it. Perhaps they could get some of the money by cutting whichever bureaucracy spends its time worrying about tag.

  4. John Burgess says:

    That activity had an even less politically correct name in the time and place in which I was a child.

    The good thing about it was that the ‘game’ could be aimed at any/everyone, including the bullies. It provided the opportunity for victims to get in a lick otherwise unavailable to them.

  5. Triumph says:

    This is typical liberal pandering. McClean, VA is the Berkeley of Virginia where the entire school system is controlled by the teachers union. The next thing you know they will try and close down classes, saying that learning is too risky.

    At that point the lazy unionists can spend all of their time converting kids to homosexuality and pro-terrorist sentiment.

  6. Hal says:

    At that point the lazy unionists can spend all of their time converting kids to homosexuality and pro-terrorist sentiment.

    Yea, I’d have to agree. That’s really the only point to all this PC stuff.

  7. Michael says:

    When was bungee-jumping and scuba diving even an option at school? Man, my recess sucked.

  8. James Joyner says:

    When was bungee-jumping and scuba diving even an option at school? Man, my recess sucked.

    Indeed. I’m presuming some school managed to get an extracurricular club going to do those things, or just applied to do that, and they wrote a rule against it.

  9. just me says:

    Our elementary school banned tag. Touch football is still allowed.

    They have also made a huge deal out of chasing in general, which is dumb.

    Part of it is concern for lawsuits, not sure what the other part is, but I feel dumb telling kids they can[t play tag or chase each other.

  10. bascartz says:

    I agree that the game should be banned. A few years back my 20yr. old had her wrist broken by kids saying they were playing tag durring recess. She didn’t even know she was in the game. Sometimes it’s innocent, sometimes its a game of push & shove, where some of the “players” don’t even know they are involved in the game. Kids today don’t play by the rules. Overall they are rule brakers, on the playground, the classroom and everywhere else.