High schoolers throughout the region have been participating in an annual game that is played by seniors about to graduate, and that game has the potential to get dangerous, police are saying.
“Nerf wars” has been mentioned by neighbors of Cincinnati Bengals Running Back Joe Mixon after his Anderson Twp. home was the location of a teenager being shot earlier this week. They are concerned that teens playing the game may have led to actual gunfire.
That notion prompted Middletown Police Chief David Birk to issue a public service warning to the community.
The game involves Nerf Blasters and other foam-firing toy weapons. Players participate in a wide range of games, from informal shootouts to ambushes and set ups at restaurants, houses and businesses.
“Since foam-firing guns are relatively safe and cheap, the games are meant to be safe and fun. Each team has another team as its target and have to shoot them all with Nerf guns to get them out to advance,” according to the MPD’s post.
Birk, the father of a Nerf war veteran, said he felt compelled to remind both residents and participants to be “aware and respectful.”
“My daughter was part of the Nerf wars and for the kids they have a ton of fun doing it,” Birk said. “So what we try to do with the school resource officers is remind them of safe practices.”
The chief said the first rule is not to alter or paint the Nerf guns black that someone could mistake for a real gun.
“Keep it orange, or yellow or whatever bright color it come in. Keep it that color. Don’t paint it black. Don’t make it look like a firearm,” Birk said.
The second rule is to respect people’s property and don’t trespass, the chief said.
Every year MPD gets calls of a suspicious person, car or incident involving a burglary, thief, or something criminal, when in fact it was young people playing the game.
“The problem is, even though most of them playing the game are good people who are just having fun, the average citizen or business owner is leery of people who lurk in their yards, driveways, parking lots or streets,” the post states.
In some cases, Nerf war participants have been reportedly wearing masks and hiding in parking lots and bushes to ambush their targets.
Police are asking parents to consider talking to their children about the game and how to stay safe.
“It is important they (participants) understand the consequences as well. Ohio has open carry, CCW. The participants need to understand not everyone is playing their game or knows about their game,” the post says. “Have fun, but be smart.”
In the Springboro School District, spokesman Scott Marshall said, “we do not promote, support or acknowledge anything to do with “Nerf/dart wars at Springboro High School.”
Marshall said nothing has come to the attention of the school district and there have been no calls made or concerns raised to district officials. He said the district does not provide any guidance to students or families about these games.
Springboro Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff said he is not aware of any incidents involving students playing the Nerf wars. He said a district school resource officer sent an email to fellow officers there would be game starting Feb. 20, but nothing was reported to police.
Clearcreek Twp. Police Chief John Terrill said his agency is aware of it, but said, “it’s not out of control. We’ve had a couple of alleged suspicious vehicle reports but were no issues.”
Carlisle, Wayne and Franklin school officials said they were not aware of any Nerf War issues in their districts. Carlisle police Chief Will Rogers said there were some issues in the city but that was before he became chief three years ago.
In Lebanon, police and school officials are aware of the upcoming Nerf war that’s supposed to begin in the next two weeks.
“We experience it every year,” said police Chief Jeff Mitchell. “Our SRO said it’s kid-run and they seem rather organized as they are registering teams.”
Mitchell said police are reminding students to be careful and cautious when playing. He said the Nerf Wars usually lasts about two weeks.
“I can think of five other things that are worse that they could be doing,” Mitchell said.
Wendy Planica, Lebanon City Schools spokeswoman, said the senior class at Lebanon High School have historically engaged in Nerf Wars.
She said the students organize themselves and they make up the game rules.
“They cannot play the game on school property and it’s not stopped unless there is a disciplinary issue,” she said. “There have been no issues in the past and they know their boundaries.”
Kettering’s Fairmont High School students had some issues with Nerf wars a few years ago, but it was quelled after students met a school resource officer, said Kari Basson, the district’s spokeswoman.
“Apparently things got a little out of control with kids driving in yards and ‘pinning’ kids in their houses so that they didn’t want to leave to come to school because they would get tagged by a Nerf dart,” Basson said in an email.
“This wasn’t really a ‘school’ issue, because the activity was not taking place at school,” she added.
Kettering Police Dept. Spokesman Tyler Johnson said he is aware of past calls “of trespassing on private property for the Nerf wars but … I do not believe any criminal complaints were ever completed as a result of any of these type of calls.”
A group of students approached Fairmont Principal Tyler Alexander about the possibility of tying a Nerf war group to the high school, but that was nixed, Basson said.
Students were told such an activity “would not be sanctioned by Fairmont High School, the group could not be affiliated with the high school in any of its social media promotions and the high school would not condone any activities tied” to the group, she said.
Alexander set a meeting between the students and Fairmont’s SRO Lester Spinks. Spinks “discussed with them the legal ramifications” that could result, Basson said.
Since then, there have not been any known incidents, she said.