Softballs, tennis balls, soccer balls, basketballs; they are all prevelant playtime objects found in schoolyards across the globe from California, to New York, to France, to India, to rural Africa. Balls, in their many incarnations, are just part of school life. Oh, except at one middle school in Long Island. You know what they did? They have banned balls, most balls, from their school. The balls that have been banned include, footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls and also they have banned “rowdy games of tag.” But there is one kind of ball they will be able to play with, soft foam Nerf balls. And that’s not all, they also have banned cartwheels, unless they are “supervised by a coach.”
I feel so sorry for the students at Weber Middle School students in Port Washington, Long Island. Not only are they missing out on the much needed release of playtime, but they will be missing out on the much needed exercise that is associated with playing with the before mentioned variety of balls. But apparently playing with balls, as kids have done for generations, is too dangerous for these kids. District Superintendent Kathleen Maloney said they made the change after “a slew of playground injuries.”
But isn’t this taking the protection of our kids too far? I have to agree with former Connecticut Governor John Rowland who wrote for CBS Connecticut that, “There are countless stories like this across the country and I am all for protecting our kids, but let them play, let them scrape their knees, maybe even twist an ankle, it’s all part of growing up.” If the school could roll up the kids in bubble wrap and put them in padded classrooms, would they?
Getting hurt, those small playground scrapes, is a rite of passage. This is how kids learn. How they know to duck when an object is hurled towards them, to dodge the ball in dodge ball, to hit the football with their foot not their head.
Hopefully, this will only be a temporary thing. In what appears to be damage control, the school released a statement – via CNN – saying that a factor was “limited space” while some construction is being done at the school. “With children in close proximity to each other, it is not safe for them to be engaged in unstructured play with hardballs,” said the district. Alex Martin, an associate director at a Manhattan nursery school, told CNN, “without opportunities to learn how to navigate space with their bodies, and to negotiate rules, risks, and experimentation of cooperative play, how are children going to ever be able to handle themselves in any society as adults?” So one has to wonder, is a ban like this doing more harm than good?
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