It's that time of year when some Pleasanton high-schoolers take part in "Assassin" contests -- games that can have dangerous unintended consequences when played in the community, according to Pleasanton police and school district officials.
The game involves teams of seniors at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools who are assigned "targets" whom they must "assassinate" using toy Nerf-type guns that fire foam darts, according to Sgt. Julie Fragomeli. The goal is to be the last player standing after several rounds and several months, to collect a cash prize.
The game is not sanctioned, supported nor approved by the Pleasanton Unified School District, and authorities are concerned about the safety implications of the game, according to Fragomeli.
"A major concern for parents, school staff, and Pleasanton police is that the thrill of the game overrides common sense in many instances," Fragomeli said in a joint statement with PUSD.
"Participants do not think about how their behavior is being viewed or interpreted by community members who see individuals with potentially dangerous weapons, often chasing others on foot or in vehicles, and surprising their 'targets' in convenience stores," she added.
The game features specific rules regarding weapon types as well as times and locations where subjects may be "assassinated," but those regulations still result in potentially dangerous situations when the rules are followed -- let alone broken -- during the course of the game, Fragomeli said.
Examples of the unsafe behavior during "Assassin" play include painting or disguising weapons to make them look more realistic, reaching for concealed weapons in public places, lying in wait behind bushes, vehicles or fences, hiding on others' property, waiting for a target while dressed in all-black or camouflage clothing, Fragomeli said.
Police and residents have also reported players driving recklessly to avoid being targeted, lying in wait in the dark, car loads of teens driving around stalking their targets, jumping out of moving vehicles to attack or flee others and conducting drive-by Nerf shootings of targets in public, the sergeant added.
"When viewed through a non-participant's eyes, the behaviors look and have all the elements of an actual threatening or violent event unfolding," Fragomeli said.
"They often prompt multiple calls to the police who respond to what they believe is a violent incident in progress," she added. "Not only does this consume significant time and resources of emergency personnel, it also jeopardizes the safety of our community when actual threats cannot be responded to in a timely manner."
Fragomeli also noted that startled homeowners, thinking their property or family needs protection, could respond violently to game-players. The game can also be dangerous for the game organizers, who take charge of collecting the entry fees and watching the large cash prizes over the course of several months.
Authorities urge students to think about the ramifications and don't play the game.
Students will face suspension if any weapons, even imitation toy guns, are brought to school, Fragomeli said. Students caught with evidence of game play on campus will face disciplinary action.
They also encouraged parents to have a candid discussion with their teens about the danger of "Assassin," and they said underclassmen should think about the safety problems associated with the game and avoid playing when they're a senior.
"Please take the appropriate steps so that we all can prevent a tragedy and students can enjoy a safe and enjoyable final year of high school," Fragomeli said.