EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 17, 2013

Windham school officials reconsider dodgeball ban

Students bring their complaints to School Board

By Alex Lippa

---- — WINDHAM — Dodgeball may not be spiked in Windham schools just yet.

The School Board said last night it will ask the school administration to reconsider removing dodgeball and other human target games from the curriculum.

“Given the participation by the students and their involvement,” said School Board Chairman Mike Joanis, “I am at least willing to ask the administration to take a look at the physical education curriculum in general, including human target games, and expand the scope of that to include both students and/or parents.”

The decision comes after there was much backlash about the school board’s decision last month to ban the games. The board voted 4-1 at that time to ban dodgeball and nine other “human target” games from gym classes, following a study by physical education teachers. The vote came after a middle school parent complained about a child being bullied during dodgeball.

Students at elementary, middle and high schools each made petitions with hundreds of signatures defending the game. At last night’s meeting, seventh-graders from Windham Middle School pleaded with the School Board to lift the ban.

“This vote didn’t consider the voice of the students,” seventh-grader Joe Dunlap read from a letter to the board. “We the students feel we have a say in this issue that affects all of us. Please reconsider this issue.”

Following the reading of the letter, there was an hour-long discussion featuring comments from parents on both sides of the issue.

“You have effectively established a precedent, where you’re going to take any parent’s complaint and you’re going to review it,” said Paul Gosselin, who has two children in the district. “If there’s a perception of a bullying issue and I can come before you, I would expect that you would respond in a similar fashion to what you’re doing with dodgeball.”

Keleigh McAllister, who has two children in the district, said the school should try to nip any issues about bullying in the bud, but it can be difficult when children who are victims do not come forward.

“They don’t tell their teachers and some don’t even tell their parents,” McAllister said.

Several board members said dodgeball wasn’t banned from schools altogether, but only from the curriculum.

“This was a curriculum decision,” said board member Stephanie Wimmer. “I just want to make sure that kids enjoy their gym class and are able to be active .... If children decide at recess that dodgeball is their passion or they want to play after school or an open gym process, they can.”

Joanis said the next step would be to determine the makeup of a group to review the curriculum and a timeline for a decision about allowing the games to be restored to the curriculum.