New Hampshire School Board Bans Dodge Ball Citing Violence and Bullying Concerns

dodge ball

Recess…a kid’s favorite time of day; the time where you get a break from the classroom and much-needed exercise; where social skills are developed and the seeds are planted for future star athletes or sports lovers through activities such as kick ball, freeze tag, basketball, red rover, and dodge ball. Where’s the harm in that? Well, according to a New Hampshire school district there’s plenty of harm.

As reported by the Eagle Tribune, the Windham school board voted, in a 4-1 decision, to ban dodge ball and other “human target” games from the curriculum.

“We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free,” Windham superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche said. “Here we have games where we use children as targets. That seems to be counter to what we are trying to accomplish with our anti-bullying campaign.”

“The physical and developmental skills are still important,” he said. “We just want to incorporate them into an activity where we don’t use youngsters as targets.”

A middle school parent complained that his child was bullied while playing dodge ball, prompting the superintendent to form a committee of PE teachers to research the effect of “human target” activities and their link to violence and bullying. The committee of teachers used standards set by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to come to their decision to recommend the ban.

“It’s an elimination game,” said Andrew Mead, program manager at NASPE. “Games like dodgeball and tag don’t keep kids involved and physically active. They objectify slower students who don’t catch as well.”

The lone board member that opposed the ban, Dennis Senibaldi, said that to prevent students from targeting one kid to quickly eliminate the game could be played using a point system so that a player isn’t immediately out.  It’s also important to note that the Windham school district did not use the big red hard balls that I remember, they used foam balls with no hard casing.

Violence and bullying is a problem, but at what point do we stop blaming video games, movies, the media, athletes who aren’t the proper “role model” for children or dodge ball for it? When do we start holding parents accountable for their children’s actions? Many violent behaviors or bullying tendencies are learned from a child’s first teacher…their parental figures. Dodge ball as I know it was a rough sport (which is why I CHOSE not to participate), but it’s also a good place to develop hand eye coordination, improve reflexes, and speed. Eliminating dodge ball won’t stop bullying or violence, holding parents responsible for what they expose their children to and the example they set will.