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June 18, 2013

Windham to reconsider dodgeball

Committee recommends School Board allow 'human target' games in gym classes

WINDHAM — Dodgeball games are bouncing back in Windham.

A study committee is recommending the School Board permit dodgeball-style, “human target” games in the physical education curriculum.

The committee is insisting student safety in such games remain paramount.

The issue is before the School Board tonight.

A board decision to ban such games this spring, due to concerns about bullying and student safety, sparked student petition drives. More than 400 students signed petitions opposing the decision.

It also created controversy around town and throughout the country. It triggered postings on news websites and an electronic town message board, and throughout the country, prompting discussion on at least one national radio program.

That prompted a second look by school officials.

“The focus of this review committee was to determine a better compromise than the elimination of certain games implemented by the professionals as part of the physical education curriculum,” the study panel said in its report to the School Board.

The panel pointed out that dodgeball, as originally designed, was not part of the curriculum.

The games in question maintain components of dodgeball, but have been modified to ensure the safety of students while meeting physical education standards, the panel said.

The recommendation pleased Dennis Senibaldi, the only member of the School Board to oppose a ban on the games when the issue came up in March.

“I am glad to see that people can be reasonable,” Senibaldi said yesterday.

One of his sons, Michael, 12, served on the study panel and led a student petition drive to preserve the games.

The various games use a foam ball and require players to aim for the body, below the head, to avoid injury.

“I don’t think Roger Clemens could hit me squarely between the eyes with the ball and make me blink,” Dennis Senibaldi 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.”

Senibaldi speculates that the committee’s recommendation, if supported by the superintendent and accepted by the School Board, will mean the controversy will go away.

The School Board meets at 7 tonight at the Community Development offices, 3 North Lowell Road.

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