The Langley School District is backpedalling on one elementary school's ban on "all forms of hands-on play," saying a letter sent home to kindergarten families was poorly worded and taken out of context.
The letter, sent home with kindergarten students at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School on Friday, said the school is banning hands-on play as the result of several injuries sustained during outside play time in the past couple of weeks.
"This includes tag, holding hands, and any and all imaginary fighting games," the letter stated, noting that a Star Wars game had been particularly problematic.
It continued: "We will have a zero-tolerance policy with regards to hands-on play, resulting in the missing of playtime and trips to the office for those who are unable to follow the rules."
But after some parents took issue with the new policy and spoke with the media, saying the school had gone too far, a spokesman for the school district said the ban is temporary – not a policy – and only applies to the rough play that has resulted in injury recently and not all forms of human contact.
"Some of [the letter] was maybe poorly worded or taken out of context," said Ken Hoff, spokesman for the Langley School District. "What's really happening is the teachers are saying the 'no hands' refers to hands-on play. We're not talking about helping a friend who falls down."
Mr. Hoff continued: "They have been having some little mock Star Wars battles and tag, where maybe it's become too rough. What we're doing is we're going to work on no-hands play right now, with parents, and then it's a matter of teaching appropriate play on the playground."
More than one parent had complained to the school, located in the community of Aldergrove, about injuries sustained during outside play time, Mr. Hoff said. However, he did not know exactly how many.
The temporary ban could be as short as a few days, Mr. Hoff said.
Parent Julie Chen, who found the letter in her daughter's backpack earlier this week, said she initially thought it was a joke.
"How could you try to implement something like that?" she said Tuesday. "They're five years old."
As well, she wondered why the school wouldn't just contact parents about the playtime injuries rather than suddenly implement an apparent ban on physical contact.
"I get the violent games, but the no hand-holding? No tag? Tag is probably the first game ever invented, and now all of a sudden you're telling these kids that they can't do this? What if they're running around outside? Is that tag? Will they be punished for it?"
Ms. Chen says she has spoken with other parents about the issue and the majority agree the ban seems too restrictive. She and her husband have also talked to their daughter about it, telling the kindergartener they will not be enforcing the temporary ban.
"I told her, 'I'm sorry. I expect you to respect your teacher, but I don't think that this is good. I have no problems: If you want to touch your friends at school then you can touch your friends.'"
Coghland principal Barb Dayco did not return calls for comment on Tuesday.