A Canadian school’s new “no touching” policy is angering parents, who say it takes “zero tolerance” too far. The policy bans kindergartners from playing tag or holding hands and even specifies “Star Wars light-sabre duels,” according to The Province newspaper of Vancouver.
Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Langley, British Columbia, defends its no-touch policy, saying the school is trying to “get behavior under control.” In a letter the school sent home to parents, administrators said kids who break the new rule would be swiftly punished. "We will have a zero-tolerance policy with regards to hands-on play, resulting in the missing of playtime and trips to the office for those who are unable to follow the rules,” the letter read, according to CTV News.
“It’s something we have to do — if we don’t control it, it will get out of hand,” Arthur Bourke, an employee of Coghlan Elementary, told The Province. “They’re trying to make [the school] safe for everybody.”
Why did the school decide to ban kids from touching? According to The Globe and Mail, the school cites injuries incurred during hands-on play as the reason for the no-hands policy. The school is even encouraging parents to teach their kids to play imaginary games that don’t involve play fighting.
“It wasn’t meant to be an instantaneous situation where the hammer is just going to drop if a child touches another child,” school district spokesman Ken Hoff told CTV. “I think what it was meant to convey is we are taking the issue seriously.”
But not everyone agrees. Many parents were not pleased about the school's ban on kids touching, and worried that the regulation was an overreach of authority.
“I get that kids have to have rules but at some point, where do we draw the line?” Julie Chen, a mother of one of the students at Coghlan Elementary, told CTV. “I am not going to tell my daughter she can’t touch her friends at school. I am going to teach her boundaries.”
Chen also told reporters she was “upset” over the new rule. “Kids get hurt all the time. What are we going to do next, put them in a bubble to go to school?” she asked.
Policies like the “no touching” ban in Canada are not as rare as one might expect. A growing number of schools in North America are adopting such measures in the name of safety.
In October, a school in Long Island, N.Y., banned most balls during recess, including footballs, baseballs, and soccer balls. The new regulation also required that activities like tag and even cartwheels had to be supervised by an adult, according to CNN. Weber Middle School in Port Washington cited the safety of its students as the reason for the new rule.
"This isn't smart. It's actually counter-productive," one woman told CNN in October. "It saddens me to think that children no longer experience the joy of kickball, tag, dodgeball and simple outdoor games I remember so fondly when I reflect on my childhood. Our kids don't experience physical activity unless it involves downloading an app."
Also in October, a school in Nashua, N.H., banned kids from playing tag during recess. According to The Nashua Telegraph, the school no longer thought the age-old game was safe.
“The traditional recess game ‘tag,’ involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hand,” the school posted on its Facebook page. “Seems innocent enough, however the force with which students ‘tag’ varies greatly, and this game, in particular, has been banned in many schools in the United States due primarily to concerns about injuries.”