School Climate & Safety

All the Things Schools Have Banned This Month

By Ross Brenneman — October 14, 2013 3 min read
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A whole slate of schools have discipline and behavioral issues this week, as students harness both new and old strategies for doing stupid things, as well as ruining everyone’s fun.

Here’s what schools have been fighting this week:

1. Halloween: Inglewood Elementary School, in Lansdale, Pa., has done something particularly spoooooky for this year: Ban Halloween. Or so it seemed. The principal sent a note home saying that some people view Halloween as a spiritual holiday, and celebrations would therefore be limited due to the possibility of appearing to support Halloween. The school district, though, released a letter saying that Halloween was OK. This brings us to ...

2. Bad communication about Halloween: The North Penn School District, which controls Inglewood, released a statement in response to the local uproar, clarifying that Halloween would indeed be celebrated, but in a way that doesn’t cut entirely into instructional time.

One of NPSD's educational goals is to advance students' knowledge and appreciation of the roles that religious and cultural heritage have played in the social [and] historical development of our civilization. NPSD complies with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs. Unfortunately, the school communication inaccurately confuses the two issues."

If anyone wants to talk to the school’s principal, you can find her by the bus that NPSD threw her under.

3. Tag: “Tag, you’re it!” “Tag, YOU’RE EXPELLED!” Tag is a game reserved for the school of hard knocks, which does not describe Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, in Nashua, N.H., where tag is not allowed. The school principal, Patricia Beaulieu, posted a letter to the school website on Oct. 4, reminding the community that tag can be dangerous, and in comments to the Nashua Telegraph, noted the school’s no-contact rule. Apparently, Charlotte Avenue students have tallied eight injuries this year, including multiple concussions and broken bones. Instead, kids can play nice, safe sports like soccer and basketball.

4. The “Knockout Game": This is the only paragraph you really need to read, from the Ledger-Enquirer, about the Muscogee County School District in Georgia:

At least six students reportedly have taken turns playing the 'Knockout Challenge,' when a person takes multiple quick breaths until feeling dizzy. Then another person presses the participant's chest for several seconds until the participant passes out. The game also is called the 'Passout Challenge.'"

5. Cellphones: Two Iowa students have been given three-day suspensions for multiple violations of a new cellphone ban at the Bondurant-Farrar Community School District. Students are allowed to carry them, but can’t look at them during the day. In other news, Bondurant-Farrar plans to put chocolate cake down in front of students and tell them not to eat it.

6. Brazen hazing: Garfield High School, in Seattle, suspended 11 students suspected of hazing at a gathering of 100 drunk students in a nearby park. This would be the same Garfield High School, by the way, where teachers staged a vocal protest of district assessments last year. Likewise, students likely protested blood-alcohol tests.

7. Handshakes: As my colleague Bryan Toporek writes over at Schooled in Sports, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association recommended Tuesday that teams “not participate in organized postgame handshake lines/ceremonies beyond that interaction that is required.” The KHSAA quickly issued a clarification that they were just making a recommendation, not a rule, but the backlash had already started. A state representative said he would work on a bill to prevent the KHSAA from enforcing their recommendation, but he might not be giving the organization (wait for it!) ... a fair shake.

These aren’t all supposed to be indicative of some trend about schools banning fun—schools are constantly out to ruin the party trying to protect students from themselves. It’s just a hefty amount of proof over a particularly short time span that monitoring students is a constant struggle. A lot of these schools’ actions—particularly the tag prohibition, and less so the hazing incident—brought a swift community backlash, however. Together, the incidents show how schools can handle their messaging about expectations for conduct, and what happens if there is poor communication.

Children: Perpetually difficult.

Correction: An earlier version of this post should have referred to the MAP test as a district test.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.