Victoria teen suffers whiplash in school ‘bubble’ soccer game

Middle school students injured in teacher-student competition

A Victoria mother is concerned about School District 61’s safety protocols after her 13-year old son received whiplash in a competition between his classmates and his teachers.

Mary Ann Watson said she received an email at the end of June from her son’s P.E. Teacher at Arbutus Middle School, Clayton Howe, saying the class would participate in a game of bubble soccer. The game involves players wearing large, clear inflatable bubble suits with handles on the inside chasing an oversized soccer ball.

Howe noted in his email there were no waivers going out to parents because the company had their own special insurance – saying “sue them, not us”– and noting that no student would be forced to participate.

While regularly teams are divided so players are close in size, the game evolved into a competition of “Bubble Gladiator,” where people would run at each other to try to knock them down, with teams divided between students and teachers, primarily Howe.

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“The teacher that was hitting those kids so hard, he’s a good teacher, he’s loved… but kids were joking he was part freight-train,” Watson said. “He told them physics wouldn’t be on their side.”

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The whole game was well-documented as kids and teachers posted videos to Instagram, and Watson noted at the end of the game one of the teachers air-dropped the file to all the surrounding students.

“My concern is why is that teacher filming him and not stopping him?” Watson asked.

Watson said over the next few days her son grew more stiff and experienced neck and shoulder pain. When she took him to the doctor, they were told it was a clear case of whiplash. Watson said at least three other students that she knew of were presenting similar symptoms.

A doctor’s note states that Mary Ann Watson’s son has whiplash. Watson says her son received the injury from playing “bubble gladiator” with his teacher. (File contributed/Mary Ann Watson

“This was a dangerous activity without informed consent and children were harmed and it was publicized while staff were not stopping it,” Watson said. She took the issue both to the teacher and to the school board with very different results.

“This is hard for me, this teacher is a decent human being and he apologized,” she said. “My challenge is more-so with the district not taking responsibility and figuring out how and why that took place.”

Watson expressed concerns that parents’ complaints weren’t being taken seriously, and that while she’s spoken with Superintendent Shelley Green as well as other board members, her complaints about the issue to the district seemed to have been dismissed.

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School District 61 noted they are well aware of the incident, and said they’ve been in conversation with Watson about it.

“We are aware of this parent’s concern regarding an incident that took place last June. The District has had substantive conversations with this parent, and our internal review of the incident is nearing completion. Once that is complete the District will provide its answers directly to the parent in a meeting,” the District said in an emailed statement.

“Student safety is important to the District and we have taken this parent’s concerns seriously. We have communicated the steps we have taken to date to the parent. We want to ensure we are providing students with a safe learning environment.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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