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March 27, 2013

Windham school officials drop dodgeball

Dodgeball has been banned in Windham schools, due to concerns about violence and bullying.

The School Board voted, 4-1, last week to remove dodgeball and nine other “human target” activities from the district’s curriculum.

The vote was taken after a committee of physical education teachers studied the issue, then recommended eliminating the games.

“We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free,” Windham superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche said. “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.”

Windham is the only local school district to ban dodgeball.

Officials in other districts said dodgeball is played less often that it used to be. That’s not, however, due to safety concerns, officials said. In fact, the game is wildly popular at some schools. But fitness-based activities have taken priority.

Pinkerton Academy intramural director Kerry Boles said dodgeball is by far the most popular intramural activity.

In fact, hundreds of Pinkerton and Londonderry High School students square off in a charitable dodgeball tournament every year.

Boles said ganging up on a particular player is about strategy, not bullying.

“Unfortunately, that is the nature of the game and, for some teams, that’s a strategy,” Boles said. “But I’ve never seen a student affected in a negative way because of it.”

Pinkerton sophomore Jim Halkiotis participated in this year’s tournament. He said he’s never seen bullying or injuries in the game.

“If we go after someone, it’s usually a bigger kid determined to make their team weaker,” he said. “They know it’s part of the game and they understand that.”

But Windham officials — and some parents — see it differently.

A middle school parent complained his child was bullied during a game of dodgeball. That prompted LaBranche to form the teachers’ committee to student “human target” games.

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