Skip to main content

South Valley Journal

Football ban lifted at Herriman Elementary

Jan 25, 2017 05:13PM ● By Tori LaRue

Henry Watson and Ethan Probst (front) and other student leaders at Herriman Elementary explain recess safety procedures the school recently implemented. The school’s principal banned football until students expressed their desires to play the game safely. (Jordan School District)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Herriman Elementary School students can play football and soccer again during recess after the student body persuaded the principal to lift the ban she placed on the sports in October.
Football and soccer were the most popular sports to play at recess, but the sports were causing more harm than good, according to Herriman’s principal, Kim Gibson.
“Every day at recess we’d have about 10 kids in the office for either fighting or an injury, and my staff, we would have to take the time to call the parents,” Gibson said. “It was just time consuming, creating injuries, creating fights, and I said, ‘I am disbanding football.’”
No longer allowed to play football, Ethan Probst and Henry Watson, both sixth-graders, spent their first recess under the ban drafting a petition which they would later take door to door to gather signatures from students, parents and neighbors.
“In the petition, it said our principal banned football because people were fighting and getting hurt, but then it just said you may as well ban school because you could get hurt at school if you trip and fall or something,” Henry said.
Upon receiving emails from parents about the ban and hearing about Henry and Ethan’s petition, Gibson asked each student in the school to write her a persuasive essay stating why football should or should not be allowed at school.
“Really, the way to teach writing is when it is a real-life experience and something they feel passionate about, so I said I want all of the students to write me a persuasive essay which I will look over and it will help me make my decision if I should remove the ban,” Gibson said. “It was a way to fuel their writing.”
Five-hundred essays written by 5- to 12-year-olds surfaced on Gibson’s desk, and none of them said they wanted the ban to continue. Although the students disagreed with her decision, Gibson said she was impressed by the sophistication, grace and respect with which the students wrote their essays.
Gibson called for a meeting with the community council to discuss the state of football at the school. Parents were invited to attend, and Henry and Ethan were invited to share their petition and persuasive essays.
“The room was packed, but they were very articulate in presenting,” Gibson said.
The boys asked that the ban on soccer and football be removed and presented ideas to remedy the injuries and fights that kept occurring through the sports. Henry suggested the school start playing flag football instead of two-hand touch football to keep students from pushing each other on accident when they meant to tag.
“There were some kids who would be too aggressive,” Henry said. “Sometimes the kids who were pushed got hurt, and it sometimes got kids mad, and then they got in a fight.”
Among other rules, Ethan suggested creating a student-led referee system to keep students in-line even during the recesses where teacher aides weren’t on duty.
Gibson and the community council accepted Ethan and Henry’s rules, and without being asked, Henry came to school with a written list of the rules which Gibson copied and made for each class. To help the school remember these rules, Gibson asked the district’s communication department to film a video of Henry, Ethan and other student leaders explaining the rules. Students wrote the movie clip script with help from teachers.
The district’s communication department asked Gibson if they could use the video districtwide to teach other schools about sport and recess safety. Gibson agreed.
“It is exciting to be leaders,” Ethan said about acting in the movie. “At first you, kind of have to think about it because it’s going to be shown around the whole district and that’s a lot of people. It’s just really a lot.”

Gibson said she’s grateful students came up with a compromise, a way to bring football back to the school while increasing safety. The students learned problem solving, and the school’s a better place with Ethan and Henry’s rules, she said.