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Re: [cowlesmontessori] Anti-bullying and prison ball

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  • TattooedMama
    Thank 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
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 28, 2008
      Thank 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 again
      Jessica 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.

      In Peace,

      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
      children enrolled.

      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.

      Mara Egherman
      2925 Rutland Ave
      Des Moines IA 50311

      Jessica B-B 
      "If I wanted quiet... I would be raising goldfish."

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