Tag, kickball, Red Rover, musical chairs: Games deemed ‘inappropriate’ by Alabama school board

Alabama Sports

No Red Rover?

Physical education teachers in Alabama should avoid such recess staples as tag, dodgeball, and Duck, Duck Goose due to the games’ lack of physical stimulation and high chance of embarrassment for students, according to a guidance document from the Alabama State Department of Education.

It is completely up to you which games you play. There is no directive about which games you can and cannot play,” Superintendent Eric Mackey said in Montgomery. “Go back, tell your principals to take care of their own P.E. problems, please.” 

AUM share sets off social media debate

The documented, first posted two-years ago but updated this week, was shared Tuesday by the Auburn University at Montgomery Physical Education Program and quickly spread on social media. The document has since been removed from the ALSDE website, however, much of it remains in the Alabama Physical Education Instructional Guide which is still available online.

As of 1:12 p.m. AUM had removed the document from its Facebook page. A screenshot of the post is below.

Inappropriate Activities/Games/Practices

Titled “Inappropriate Activities/Games/Practices,” the document lists activities that are “highly recommended and suggested…not be allowed in a physical education program in Alabama.” It cites a list of reasons for the warnings, including a high likelihood of injury; potential for embarrassment or singling out a student in front of the class or focus on eliminating a student from participation; or over emphasis on fun with no purpose or objective.

ALSDE inappropriate activities

ALSDE inappropriate activities

The front page of the now-deleted post titled “Alabama State Department of Education Inappropriate Activities.”

From the Alabama Physical Education Instruction Guide

List of non-recommended games included in the Alabama Physical Education Instruction Guide. The guide is dated 2011 and was last modified in 2015. It is the only course of study listed on ALSDE’s website for PE instruction.

Yoga Journal Conference


The first activity on the list is yoga. In 1993, Alabama lawmakers passed a law prohibiting the teaching of yoga in schools, citing a connection between the practice and Hindu religious training. In 2006, then Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morton sent a letter to the school saying yoga was not to be offered during regular school hours or after school hours to students on any public school campus in Alabama.

Duck, duck, goose

What ALSDE had to say:  “A game of minimal participation, the chosen “goose” attempts to get up from a sitting position and try to catch the “ducker” who only has to go about 60 feet and already had a full running head start. Everyone else just sits and screams at an ear-shattering pitch and decibel levels.”


The avoid list included Dodgeball or any variation of the game.

“There are no standards in the Alabama Court of Study: Physical Education for any grade that supports/justifies this activity…where a student or students are targets of thrown objects.”

Giants, Elves, and Wizards

Also known as Cranes and Crows, the game is similar to team tag.

“Participation time is at a bare minimum, the rules take forever to explain and even then, the students are confused. The game usually ends when two students crash heads together,” the ALSDE said.


The classic game kickball has all sorts of issues, according to the ALSDE:

“A game students can organize and play quite well all by themselves as early as second grade. Combine that with minimal activity for 90 percent of the students, the potential for embarrassment when a kicker misses the rolling ball, the opportunity to get players “out” by hitting them as hard as possible with the thrown ball.”

Musical chairs

Another no-no.

“A classic elimination game in which the least skilled and least attentive students and immediately eliminated and then sent to improve their abilities by sitting on the floor, spinning mindlessly in circles and waiting for 15 minutes for the winner (almost always the same student) to be determined.”

Relay races

Relay races can open up a student to ridicule, the ALSDE document contends.

“An eight-minute activity in which a student gets one 20 second chance to “go” and either succeed of failing in front of classmates’ eagerly watchful eyes. Successes are generally ignored but failures are fodder for continuing ridicule at least through dismissal at the end of the day.”

Steal the bacon

The premise of the game is this: Two opposing players come out the center of the court where they compete to grab a small object  – or “bacon” – before the other person.

“Any activity with this potential for embarrassment and absolutely minimal activity time easily qualifies as terrible,” ALSDE said.

Line soccer

ALSDE called this game “a more dangerous version of Steal the Bacon.”

“Two opposing players compete in front of the entire class with the final glory being the opportunity to kick a soccer ball as hard as possible directly at the head, stomach or another body part of a member of the defending line.”

Messy Backyard

Here’s how you play Messy Backyard: Students are divided into two teams. The teams then compete to see who can throw the most objects – usually small balls – over the net to the other side in order to “clean” their area.

ALSDE said the game was “misbegotten and mindless.”

Red Rover

Red Rover, Red Rover, send John right over…

Not so fast.

This is another game on the recommended list of activities to avoid.

“This game is a relic from a time when football and wrestling coaches taught PE to occupy the time during the day and apparently did not care at all about the safety of our students.”

Simon Says

ALSDE takes a hard line on Simon Says, singling it out for including “gleeful teacher deception.”

“This has all the other problems inherent with elimination games, too: removal of unskilled or inattention students, singling out participants for ridicule; and low participation time.”


A more complicated version of Dodge Ball, ALSDE calls this “another human target bombardment game where students try to hit, hurt and humiliate other classmates with a thrown object.

“At least in Dodgeball, students have a chance to faint, dodge and try to avoid being hit. In this classic game, students are told to “freeze” and then just have to stand there and hope they don’t get hit in the teeth.”


The ALSDE calls tag a “self-defeating elimination game” that targets “slow and unskilled players” who are left waiting around for the “fastest and best players” to finish. The same players are generally eliminated in every round, the document said. Tag does have some positive attributes, however, and ALSDE said a “creative teacher can fix the problems.”

Tug of war

This one is a “throwback to our paramilitary roots,” and involves two large groups each grabbing opposite ends of a rope, waiting for the signal to start pulling and then attempting to drag the other group over a center line – preferably into the mud.

“Apart from pointless isometric straining for a few seconds or perhaps a minute, is there any real benefit? Does this game actually satisfy any of the criteria for appropriate physical education teaching practice? And it’s dangerous! Children get rope burns on their hands, get dragged along the ground, and get trampled on by their teammates.”

Capture the flag

The ALSDE said this game is a “dinosaur,”  and made the list due to the “large sided/low participation” rates that exclude “the slowest and least-skilled movers.”

Rope climbing

Here’s why rope climbing made the list: “The negative aspects of this relic are the low participation rates, the element of  danger, the “made for a lawsuit” thin mat under the rope, the inattentive spotter, the rope burns on  the hands and legs, and the grand spectacle of one student attempting to climb while the rest of the class sits and watches.”

Scooter soccer

Scooter Soccer teams using riding toys to play soccer. The game leaves many students just sitting on their scooters and others “unengaged” and amounts to a “waste of time,” ALSDE said.

The documents also list what ALSDE classifies as “inappropriate teaching practices,” including:

Student on display

This includes anything where one student performs a routine, skill or tests while everyone else is watching.

“It can be fine for the most talented or confident, but devastating to the fragile self-image of low and middle-level performers.”

Other inappropriate teaching practices

Physical education teachers should avoid anything that involves only a portion of the students participating in an activity while others stand around and wait; exercise as punishment; or withholding physical activity as punishment.

Don’t let student captains choose teams

Another thing to avoid: Letting students pick their own teammates.

“This practice turns students look on one another to humiliate, embarrass, degrade, scar, and damage classmates in front of their peers. There’s no need to subject students to this teacher- sanctioned psychological torture.”

No shirts vs. Skins

The practice of dividing boys’ teams into shirts – who leave their shirts on  –  vs. skins – who remove their shirts  – is “inappropriate.”

“Not only does this suggest the large-sided games we are trying to avoid but the prospect of going shirtless is absolutely horrifying for those students who have low self-esteem and poor body images.”

Other things to avoid

Other things to avoid include taking attendance while students sit in lines (a “waste of time”) or posting skills test results or grades in a public place.

Alabama school superintendent responds

Alabama’s state superintendent of schools Eric Mackey today addressed the controversy sparked by a recently rediscovered guidance document from the Alabama State Department of Education suggesting physical education teachers avoid games such as tag, dodgeball, and Duck, Duck  Goose. 

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