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School zero-tolerance policies are ignored for popular gameMarch 7, 2013 @ 4:46 pm (Updated: 10:05 am - 3/8/13 )
At a time when adults are concerned about gun violence and school shootings, students are competing to kill each other with toy guns by playing "Senior Assassin."
Many private and public school teachers and administrators in Western Washington look the other way while the game is played for a couple of weeks.
"Hello, I'm Hunter and today I'm going to teach you how to play Assassins. The object of your game is to eliminate your target before you are eliminated," he says in a video posted on Facebook to describe the student-run activity.
There are numerous rules to the stealthy survival game. Play is voluntary. Students sign up to "kill or be killed" in a group that's generally organized through Facebook.
No two people have the same target. The object is to take out your target by shooting him or her with a Nerf gun, or in some cases schools have used squirt guns. A few schools do a version of the game that's less likely to get someone in trouble for having a toy gun in school, by using stickers.
Once hit, the student is out of the game and has to surrender their target to the assassin, who keeps collecting targets.
"What happens if you get a name you don't recognize? This is where the tactic of sleazy underhanded sleuthing comes in," Hunter explains. "If you really want to be a stalker you could try to find a copy of their schedule."
The number one rule of the game is that the "hit" cannot happen on school property.
"I believe it's not allowed to happen on school grounds, that it's supposed to happen after school hours so that it's not a school-related game," says one teacher who is aware the game's being played at her high school.
Most students are targeted on their way to or from school, it's best to have a Nerf gun with you tucked away in your backpack or hidden in a locker.
In some schools, you don't even have to hide the toy guns. Teachers, who will not be identified by name, admit they ignore what's going on because it's a good "team building" experience for the class.
A private school administrator wouldn't say whether he'd report a student for having a Nerf gun or darts in the building.
"Although we are not directly affiliated with it, we are aware of it. We have in the past been supportive of the community when there have been issues with it," he says. "Would we endorse it overall as a school? I won't go on record as saying either way."
While it's only a game, some students take it very seriously. Seniors sometimes form conspiracies or mafias in order to help each other kill targets.
At the end of the two weeks, the senior with the most kills wins the game. Some schools play for prize money, though most are playing for bragging rights only.
This game has gone on for years, but the current school year has an underlying tension because of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Connecticut where Adam Lanza opened fire killing 20 children and six adults.
All high schools in the country have a zero-tolerance policy against "dangerous weapons." Many districts also have rules against toy guns. In Seattle, for example, anyone who breaks the no-toy-gun rule has to enroll in a district-approved behavior modification program, primarily involving learning skills for anger and conflict management.
Obviously, some schools are more lenient than others in their definition of zero-tolerance.
Recently, a 7-year-old Maryland boy was recently suspended from school after biting a Pop Tart into a shape that his teacher thought looked like a gun. The school district even wrote letter to parents apologizing and offering counseling for anyone who was disturbed by the boy's actions.
This week in Pasco, a fifth-grade boy was temporarily suspended for just talking with another student about a new Nerf gun he had at home. The district has since admitted they were too cautious to pull him out of school since he did not have the toy gun with him and made no threats to anyone.
Parents' opinions of Senior Assassin ranges from "It's fun, let them blow off a little steam, it's no big deal" to "I can't believe a teacher would ignore this game if they know it's going on right under their noses."
What do you think - harmful or harmless?
By LINDA THOMAS
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