108Re: [cowlesmontessori] Anti-bullying and prison ball
- Mar 28, 2008Thank you for your attention to this. It is a very well worded letter. I had no idea that the children at Cowles or elsewhere in the DMPS district play a game like this. I too support alternate games for PE or free play.Thanks againJessica B-B
elvismara <elvismara@...> wrote:Hi everybody,
Following is a letter I just sent to our superintendent of schools
regarding my concern about prison ball at Cowles and throughout the
district. Just FYI, but if you're inclined to contact the District
about it in support I sure wouldn't mind! And for those parents of
kids who really enjoy the game (I know you are out there but I won't
name the names I know!), perhaps they could arrange to play it
outside of school when all participants are willing and voluntary.
Dr Nancy Sebring, Superintendent 27 March 2008
Des Moines Public Schools
901 Walnut Street
Des Moines IA 50305
Dear Dr Sebring,
I was pleased to see the District's carefully constructed Anti-
Bullying/Harassment Procedures document that came home from school
with my kindergartener in his backpack yesterday. It is timely that
I bring up a long-held concern to you that I have shared with
teachers and administrators at Cowles School where I have two
In Physical Education class, Cowles students play a game known here
in Des Moines as "prison ball." When I grew up in Minnesota this
same game was known as "nation ball," or "smear the queer." The gym
is divided in half and teams face each other over a middle line. The
object of the game is to target peers on the opposing team with the
ball, thereby "capturing" them into a "prison" area. The only way to
get out of "prison" is for a prisoner to get the ball and hit one of
the remaining players on the opposing team with it. Perhaps you know
the game. I'm writing to ask that this game be eliminated from Des
Moines Public Schools P.E. classes, and that it not be allowed
as "free choice" game in school.
My fifth grader has come home upset about the fact that this game was
played many times in the four years she has been a student at
Cowles. She has been injured and bruised from this game. The most
recent case was just last week. I remember fearing this game along
with other students in my elementary school P.E. classes growing up.
This isn't about an aversion to sports; indeed I was an athletic
child and went on to earn varsity letters. My child is a member of
Cowles' running club and recently won a local 5K race in her age
group. She was also a key player on her soccer team last fall.
I have asked, over our family's four-year affiliation with Cowles,
for alternative P.E. activities to prison ball or for the school to
not allow the game. Particularly in the Montessori environment that
incorporates peace and nonviolence and cooperation right into the
curriculum, this game has no place. Some P.E. teachers assigned to
Cowles have ceased using it as a game for class, and I have had
support from administrators, but as you know we have had high
turnover in administrators (three in four years). It is wonderful
that Cowles will now have a principal for many reasons including that
these types of issues have a better chance of being addressed
consistently from year to year.
P.E. teachers sometimes allow the students to choose an activity.
This is very frequent when substitute P.E. teachers come to Cowles.
The proponents of prison ball, often the larger boys, are quite vocal
in supporting it. They usually win out over those not wanting to
play the game, or those who for perhaps social acceptance reasons do
not speak up.
Beyond Cowles, I am concerned for the well being of all DMPS students
in this regard. A district-wide ban on prison ball would certainly
be in line with the anti-bullying policies you have outlined. This
game clearly "places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the
student's person," and has a detrimental effect on the student's
physical and mental health, the first two elements of your four-point
definition of bullying. I was frankly shocked to discover that this
game was still played when our family moved to Des Moines four years
ago. It seems such an outdated practice.
Finally, in this time of national concern about enough exercise for
children, isn't it better to foster a positive environment around
P.E. class over that of either potential bullying or fear? There are
so many wonderful physical activities and sports, surely we can come
up with better choices for our children.
Thank you for your time and consideration to this matter.
2925 Rutland Ave
Des Moines IA 50311
"If I wanted quiet... I would be raising goldfish."
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