New Hampshire school board will allow dodgeball and ‘human target games’ after all

It appears the long national dodgeball nightmare is over.

Upon further review, the Windham (N.H.) School Board ruled that dodgeball-like games do not violate the district's anti-bullying policies after all and should be allowed in schools with proper safety precautions, according to The Eagle Tribune (h/t USA Today).

In March, the Windham School Board must have watched "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" one too many times, essentially agreeing with Patches O'Houlihan's assessment that "Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation."

“We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free,” Windham superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche told The Eagle Tribune three months ago. “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 board's description of dodgeball-esque contests like Rescue 911, Penalty Box and Jailbreak as "human target games" that "objectify slower students who don’t catch as well" created a national firestorm around the overprotective nature of such rulings.

Meanwhile, more than 400 students signed a petition opposing the committee's 4-1 ruling to eliminate the games from the district's physical education curriculum, according to The Eagle Tribune. As a result, the school board dedicated a committee of 10 people to a "Human Target Study" released last week that can be read in its entirety here.

The study recommended the reinstatement of such games, with a few caveats: using Nerf balls, not rubber; allowing students to opt out, throwing at stationary targets instead; and changing the names of several contests (i.e., "Numero Uno" instead of "Slaughter").

Windham High School: With 100 percent more human contact sports again — Windham Actors Guild
Windham High School: With 100 percent more human contact sports again — Windham Actors Guild

After reviewing the initial study presented on March 19, 2013, this committee has reached a decision that the inclusion of the games suggested in the initial review be implemented as deemed appropriate by the professional staff. As with all activities, instruction will be differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. It is recommended that the professionals have the option to include certain modified games noted in this review as part of their instruction to fulfill physical education standards developed by NASPE.

The game of “Dodgeball,” as originally designed, was not part of the Windham School District Physical Education Curriculum. Therefore, it is not recommended by this committee nor was ever part of the initial study conducted. Though the games maintain components of “Dodgeball,” they have been modified to ensure the safety of all learners while meeting physical education standards.

Originally the lone vote against banning the games back in March, school board member Dennis Senibaldi was pleased with the recommendation to overturn the ruling. His 12-year-old son Michael was on the 10-person committee in the "Human Target Study."

“I don’t think Roger Clemens could hit me squarely between the eyes with the ball and make me blink,” he said. “This was all about kids being bullied. If kids are being bullied, it’s the teacher’s job to step in and rectify it. Don’t eliminate an entire class of games. Getting rid of the games wasn’t the way to handle the problem, if there was a problem.”

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