A spring tradition is under way as Lakota high school students, some clothed and some not, do battle in Nerf Wars on their neighborhood streets.
The annual event involves students pairing up in groups and chasing each other with Nerf guns. If shot, the student and his group is in jeopardy of being eliminated and therefore ineligible to win the cash prize or pot collected from the entrants.
At first glance, the game appears to be harmless, but Lakota administrators sent out an email to parents of both East and West high schools this week stressing that their child’s safety could be at risk.
According to the email, which was written together by Lakota West principal Elgin Card and Lakota East principal Suzanna Davis, students have been known to shoot each other from vehicles and participate in car chases during Nerf Wars.
Davis, who has been a Lakota administrator for eight years, said Nerf Wars has been around since she started working in the district. Both principals stressed that “Nerf Wars is not a school-sanctioned or organized event.”
“Any time your attention is not on the road, there is a possibility that something could happen.” Card said. “We don’t want any of our young people injured and we don’t want them injuring anybody else.”
Both Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and West Chester Police Chief Erik Neihaus said that students could receive citations if they are driving dangerously.
“I don’t like it at all. Somebody will die or get injured,” Sheriff Jones said. “If (deputies) see someone shooting one of these toy guns out the window, somebody is going to get a citation. They will get points taken off their license and they might kill somebody.”
Another way Nerf War participants can find themselves on the wrong end of the law, is for public indecency. According to the game’s rules, a participant is “safe” from being shot if they are naked.
“If we see people, whether they are students or otherwise, engaging in public indecency, then that will be dealt with accordingly,” Chief Neihaus said. “It is a low-level misdemeanor crime, but it is one that we can make an arrest for.”
According to the email sent out to parents, some Lakota students were arrested last year when they were found nude after being involved in a traffic crash.
Casey Millisor, a junior at Lakota West, said when a shooter is approaching the victim can strip down and be “safe”.
“It looks fun, but it is super risky,” said Millisor, who has not participated in the event. “I have to give props to the people who do it. You have to be gusty to be out in the woods, naked, around adults and people they might work with.”
Millisor said Nerf Wars is open to seniors and juniors. Sophomores can participate if only invited by an upperclassman. Participants then have to pay-to-play and the group that wins takes the cash.
“I watched all my siblings do it and they had a blast,’’ Millisor said, “but just be careful because you can go too far. The police won’t say, ‘oh, they are just doing Nerf Wars, they can run around naked.’ The laws are still the laws. Rules are still rules.”
Still, parents are concerned for their children’s safety and innocence.
“It could be dangerous,” said Mark Fugate, who has two daughters who have graduated from Lakota East and another in eighth grade. “I am worried about my kids driving around and some kid taking their eyes off the road. Kids don’t need distractions as is.
“The naked part? I am not too happy about that. They shouldn’t be doing that.”
One of Fugate’s daughters, Sofey, who graduated from Lakota East in 2012, said she didn’t participate in the game and called it “ridiculous”.
“It was like a 24-hour thing. People would camp outside your house, waiting to shoot you,” said Sofey, who is attending Heidelberg University. “The only way you were safe is if you would take all your clothes off.”
Lakota is not the only district that participates in Nerf Wars. Tracey Carson, public information officer of the Mason School District, said Nerf Wars have taken place in that school district for about 10 years.
NERF WAR RULES
Participants are safe 30 minutes before and after their work shifts
Participants are safe if they are naked
Participants are safe while in people’s homes
Participants are safe on school grounds
Participants can be shot as soon as they leave school grounds
Participants are safe when in areas with private property signs
Participants are not necessarily eliminated if shot, but could be out for that round