Pleasanton police and school district officials have issued a joint warning to students and their parents, requesting that they do not participate in the annual "Assassin" game played by many Foothill and Amador Valley high-schoolers around this time of year.
Authorities have raised concerns about the safety implications of the game, stating that to nonparticipants it appears as if an actual threatening or violent event is unfolding, resulting in multiple false alarm calls to police.
"Unfortunately, our youth are engaging in behavior that could have dire consequences," said Shannon Whitaker, PPD's community and public relations coordinator. "A major concern for parents, school staff and police is that the thrill of the game often overrides good judgment. Participants do not think about how their behavior may be viewed by community members who see individuals with potentially dangerous weapons, often chasing others on foot or in vehicles."
The game itself involves teams of students who are assigned peer "targets" whom they have to "assassinate" using toy Nerf guns that fire foam darts, Whitaker explained. There are usually specific rules governing what type of weapons can be used, where and when it is acceptable to play, and so on, but in past years, "assassinations" have happened in public spaces and frightened bystanders.
Police officers responding to calls about the game are forced to take time away from other issues, potentially jeopardizing a timely response to actual threats, Whitaker noted.
Consuming police resources that can better be spent elsewhere is only part of the problem, she added, as nonparticipants who feel threatened may respond with violence if they feel the need to protect themselves.
Police and school officials also warn of dangerous behavior from participants such as disguising weapons to make them look more realistic, reaching for concealed weapons in public places, hiding on private property and driving recklessly in pursuit of a target.
The last player standing typically collects a cash prize gathered from entry fees, which police say has caused its own set of problems. In the past, the collection and custody of entry fees has led to accusations of mishandling funds.
"The (PPD) and school district are collectively concerned about the safety of our youth, so we are urging students to consider the potential ramifications of their behavior and to avoid playing this game," Whitaker stated.
The joint press release by school and police officials can be read online here.