Editor's Note: We've updated this story with a clarification from the communications director of Robbinsdale Schools, who says no one has been injured.
Late last week, parents were sent an email and a phone recording warning of students involved in a potentially deadly activity known as the "choking game."
In an email to parents, Principal Tom Henderlite wrote: "It's called the passout game or choking game. At RMS, it is being called space monkey." In this activity, one student deprives another of oxygen by choking him or her, often creating a tingling sensation or causing the student to pass out. Many school districts are concerned the trend is now making a comeback.
"It certainly took me by surprise," said Gail Weinhold, a Patch contributor and parent of a Robbinsdale middle schooler. "I wanted to know what caused them to send such an alarming note. What happened and was anybody hurt?"
communications director Tia Clasen says while only a handful of students actually took part in the 'choking game,' it was important to address the issue before more kids got involved in it.
Clasen also says had a similar incident a few weeks ago. She says the principal held a student assembly and sent all parents a letter explaining what happened, urging them to talk with their children.
"The 'game' is not exclusive to Robbinsdale — it's everywhere right now," Clasen says. "Our message is that you can't pass it off as this happens somewhere else because it happens everywhere — including right here."
Clasen says it's important for parents to know they're working to stop the behavior before something serious happens.
"No one has been injured, no one was sent to a hospital, and no one went home -- we don't even know that anyone has actually passed out," she says. "We're taking this opportunity to tell parents that this is a good time to talk to their kids and this is a good topic to talk about."
The choking game goes by several different names, and school officials say it's been around for a long time. In his emailed warning, Henderlite wrote about effects ranging from seizure and stroke to retinal damage. "Students usually don't see this behavior as risky and are secretive about it," he wrote. "Please talk to your student about the consequences of this behavior."
Parents with questions about the choking game and its prevalence can turn to this website from the Dangerous Behaviors Foundation, which is primarily dedicated to educating adults and youth about the "choking game." Parents should screen the accompanying video from the foundation before sharing with their children.
"I've asked my kids a lot of questions," Weinhold says. "...which is probably the goal in sending the message out in the first place."