Summer vacation is starting to wind down in Massachusetts and students along with parents are getting prepared for back to school.

The past school year has been anything but normal for teachers, students, and their families. The changes experienced over the past year and a half have been unprecedented and it got me thinking about how much school, in general, has changed from when I was a child.

One of my favorite things in school was always gym class, especially at the elementary age. Shocking that I loved the period of the day when we just got to have fun and play games.

Needless to say, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite games, dodgeball, is actually banned in public schools in the state of Massachusetts. Seriously! In fact, it has been since 2002! I was in school in 2002 and I STILL didn't notice, although by that time I was a senior and probably skipping gym class. Sorry, Coach Gill.

So what's the deal with dodgeball? Back in 2001 school districts in Maryland began discouraging and even banning the game. According to a New Times Times article from May of that year, officials claimed that this type of game could have a traumatizing effect on young children because it encourages violence and human targeting. Essentially, the weakest players will be picked off first because they're the easiest target. There is also a safety factor when bigger, stronger kids are hurling balls at smaller, weaker ones.

The article also cited the work of a physical education professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, who placed dodgeball in the "Physical Education Hall of Shame", a list of gym activities that he suggested could damage children emotionally. The list included also duck-duck-goose and musical chairs. Yes, really.

In 2004, schools in Massachusetts, along with Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Texas, and Utah banned dodgeball, or its variations, including war ball, monster ball, and kill ball. I mean, let's be honest, Kill Ball does seem slightly aggressive.

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I talked to a handful of elementary school gym teachers in Berkshire County who confirmed the ban. Some have a different version of the game where balls are thrown at pins in an attempt to knock them over rather than knock out players. Some other versions use balls of yarn, rather than more dangerous rubber balls. However, at least one elementary school in the county does not allow any game where an object is thrown at other students.

So, what do you think? Do you think the ban on dodgeball in school is warranted?

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