A plan to quietly ban dodge ball and other "target games" from public schools was shelved Tuesday by Louisiana's top school board.
The sweeping prohibition was in a new set of physical education benchmarks drawn up by nearly two dozen teachers and others called the Louisiana Physical Education Standards Committee. But members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, mindful of a possible uproar if the change won approval, put the brakes on the push.
"Dodge ball is an activity that we know many of our students enjoy," said Holly Boffy, vice-president of BESE and the leader of the effort to revamp the proposed change.
"And we want to be careful that we don't create regulations that would stand in the way of students getting fit and enjoying p.e.," Boffy said after the meeting.
The BESE committee that tackled the issue voted for the proposed language to be revised, and for policymakers to take another look at the issue on Wednesday morning.
The proposed ban was included in a section of guidelines that said physical education classes are not "sports camps" and should not be routinely taken away for other school functions and makeup tests.
"Lastly, human target games (e.g. dodge ball) and drills that promote aggressive behaviors by attacking and overpowering other humans are not to be permitted," according to the proposed standards.
Sponsors of the change said they were surprised by the reaction.
"Honestly, I didn't think it was going to be an issue," Kathy Hill, a member of the committee, said a few hours after the meeting.
"In trying to be really sensitive about bullying, which is just a huge issue now in the schools, we just felt like we needed to put a statement in there about human target games," said Hill, who is on the kinesiology faculty at LSU.
Critics said it would be a mistake for officials to enact a statewide ban.
"Teachers have good sense," BESE member Kathy Edmonston, of Gonzales, said after the meeting. "We should let them use their good sense in order to do what they need to do."
"I do not think we should have lofty standards and say you cannot play a certain sport," she added. "I just think there are other ways to do it."
Edmonston was even more emphatic during BESE's brief discussion on the issue.
"I do not want to ban dodge ball or red rover," she said.
The state's physical education standards were last updated in 2009.
Work groups of p.e. teachers, health and other officials held public meetings from January through March to come up with their recommendations.
Hill said the dodge ball ban did not spark controversy when it was agreed to by members of the standards review panel, and was largely aimed at high school students.
"So, we just thought we were going to put this in there and try to not have this be an issue with the kids," she said.
The panel included 21 members, including representatives of elementary, middle and high schools.
The aim of the new guidelines, according to the recommendations, is to produce "physically literate individuals" who have the knowledge and skills to enjoy a lifetime of healthy, physical activities.
The review of p.e. standards, unlike changes in math, English and science benchmarks, drew little notice outside of those involved in the overhaul.
The discussion was initially lighthearted, with BESE President Gary Jones, who lives in Alexandria, saying he enjoyed dodge ball 65 years ago.
But it changed when Boffy, who lives in Youngsville, said she was concerned about the impact of the ban.
The revised rules set for action Wednesday are expected to spell out permissible dodge balls, supervision and other guidelines.