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'Assassin Game' sparks warning at Unionville High School

04/02/2014 09:35AM ● Published by ACL

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

“Assassin,” a group game that has sparked controversy in the last few  years at colleges and high schools, caused a scare at Unionville High School last week.

In a March 19 message to parents,  principal Paula Massanari wrote that, “A state trooper just visited my office with a concern about UHS students engaged in the 'Assassin Game.' He was just called to a home this afternoon by the owner who indicated that someone was hiding in her bushes and she was afraid. It turns out that the 'someone' was a UHS senior. The state trooper asked me to share with all of you his 'deep concerns' about students playing this game. He stated that our student was lucky that the police did not inadvertently seriously hurt him, given that they thought that he was an intruder.”

The game is known by several names and has widely varying rules, but essentially, players are assigned to eliminate each other using mock weapons until only one player remains. The eliminations can be accomplished by squirting a player with a water gun or a foam dart gun, marking them with paint or a marker, or touching them with a fake sword or knife. Players can also assassinate each other through e-mail “bombs” with specific messages, or “car bombs,” in which players put a CD in the victim's car stereo and the victim hears a message that they have been eliminated.

The problem, which has led to the game being banned at several universities, is that players can be mistaken for intruders, endangering themselves when police respond. And players can take the game too far.

In a March 17 news report, KXAN News in Austin, Texas reported that the Austin Independent School District has banned the game, called “Senior Assassins,” which was being played by seniors at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy. The district said they have told principals in the past that this type of game was not allowed.  

The news report quoted a former student at the school, who graduated in 2012. “It’s part of the culture,” he said. “[Students] take markers and they have a certain target and they just try to mark their target. It’s supposed to be kind of like a knife, but obviously no one gets hurt.”

In another news story this month, CBS News in Boston reported that misdemeanor charges may be brought against students in Merrimack, N.H., who were playing the game. The game is an annual tradition for seniors, who pay to participate. They are given names of students they need to target with a water gun. The last student standing wins the cash jackpot.

Students went to a home to target a senior. He backed out of his driveway and into a car that was blocking his exit. “The student that was trying to leave his driveway was the target of the assassin with the squirt gun,” said Lt. Dean Killkelly of the Merrimack Police Department.  Killkelly said no one was hurt, but, “Our concern is that it’s escalating to the point where someone might get hurt. Property is getting damaged,” he said.

Last year, New Hampshire police fielded complaints about students hopping fences and trespassing to gain access to others playing the game. In other cases, they sneak into houses and cars. 

While the situation at Unionville High School has not reached that point, Massanari was clear that the game is not welcome on the campus. 

“We are giving students the message here at UHS that they may not exchange money related to this game while they are at school and/or may not carry out any 'assassinations' on school property,” she wrote. “However, as you know, what students do outside of school falls under your parental jurisdiction. I encourage the parents of every UHS student, especially seniors, to have a serious discussion about this game with your child tonight.”

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