Austin ISD shuts down “Student Assassin” game

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Administrators with the Austin Independent School District have put the brakes on a tradition at a local high school called “Senior Assassins.”

Students at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, known as LASA, have organized the game for nearly a decade.

“It’s part of the culture,” said Nathan Bendich who graduated from LASA in 2012.

The game is planned by students and played during the school day in between classes.

“[Students] take markers and they have a certain target and they just try to mark their target,” said Bendich. “I think it has to be — it’s just anywhere below the neck.”

“It’s supposed to be kind of like a knife, but obviously no one gets hurt.”

The last man standing wins the big prize.

“Each senior puts some money into a big pot, and there’s only one person who can win all the money,” said Bendich.

A concerned viewer first contacted KXAN about the game, saying it was not right and cited recent school shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary.

When KXAN asked Austin ISD officials about the game Sunday, they had not heard about it and started checking with school officials immediately.

“As we found out this is a game played in high schools across the country, but the game is ideally kept in secret as well,” said Edmund Oropez, AISD’s Associate Superintendent of High Schools.

But it was not much of a secret at LASA. The principal and teachers knew about it and have helped create campus rules for the game to keep kids safe.

On Monday, AISD spokesman Alex Sanchez said administrators told the campus the district does not condone the game, and shut it down before it started.

“It’s disappointing,” said Sanchez. “It’s definitely something we do not tolerate.”

The district said they have told principals in the past that this type of game is not allowed. Three years ago students at Anderson High School were caught playing it with Nerf guns.

Sanchez and other administrators went to LASA Monday to speak with the principal and students about how the game worked. The district would not comment on steps they were taking with the principal.

“As you know we don’t discuss any personnel matters but clearly this was an oversight,” said Oropez.

Complete statement from Austin ISD on the banning of the game:

Upon learning that some seniors at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy planned to organize a local version of the role-playing game ‘Assassins,’ AISD ordered principals to ban any of these type of activities or games from occurring on campus–as we did as recently as three years ago when a similar incident occurred at another high school. We find these games to be inappropriate on campus, and AISD does not endorse or support such activities, which distract from teaching and learning and pose unnecessary security risks.

The student-led game at LASA involved eliminating participants by tagging them with markers, and seniors could participate on a voluntary basis. However, in some games of ‘Assassins’ played at other schools throughout the country, participants target players for elimination and ambush them with fake weapons such as toy guns and plastic light sabers or other objects. LASA students were planning to use only markers to tag students.

Although there is no evidence that any LASA student was in danger, the school district has banned the game at all of its campuses due to education and security concerns.

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