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5 Farragut Middle students disciplined for playing 'choking game'


(WBIR-Knoxville) Five students at Farragut Middle School were recently disciplined for playing a potentially deadly game called the "choking game."

Knox County Schools could not comment on the exact type of punishment, but KCS confirmed five kids were disciplined on Friday, February 21st, for what they're calling an isolated incident.

In a simple explanation, the choking game is when someone chokes someone until they pass out.

10News talked to a concerned parent who claimed her son has witnessed the game more than once at the school.

"My son says it happens in the bathroom all the time. Kids do it and upload pictures and videos on Instagram and YouTube," said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous.

The parent quickly learned the choking game can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first death was reported in the '90s. While the statistics were outdated, the CDC reported nearly 70 deaths between 2005 and 2007, with a median age of 13.

"Fear went through my head," said Heather Dunlap, who has a 13-year-old son who attends FMS. "Because at the age of a middle-schooler, there are so many things. They're becoming more their own person. They are not talking to you quite as much. That you don't really know everything that's going on in their lives."

Dunlap said she researched the game and found hundreds of thousands of videos, along with websites created by parents who lost a child to the choking game.

"Especially with social media. I think with YouTube and things like iFunny, things like that, definitely kids share with other kids what they've seen on the internet," said Dunlap. "I think it's equally important to educate both the parents and the student body on this. And definitely show them the realities of what could happen."

Dr. Ryan Redman, the E.R. Director at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, said in most cases, participants do it for a short high.

"This activity is usually used as a way for kids to get a quick rush or altered level of consciousness but it does that by depriving the brain of oxygen," said Redman.

Redman said while there have not been any recent cases at ETCH, usually the person who was choked out is either fine or died.

"We don't tend to see a lot of kids that come into the emergency department after something like this because these are usually activities that parents don't know about. They're going on at school," said Redman.

In November 2013, two people were hospitalized at Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital for playing the choking game.

A freshman at a Middle Tennessee high school was rushed to intensive care with brain injuries, but has since made what his parents call a miraculous recovery.

"We don't really know what goes through kids' minds but they're so malleable at this age that anything at all can be something they think is a good idea," said Dunlap. "But it's not a game. We have to get the word out that it could take your life."

According to the CDC, the choking game is also referred to as the pass-out game, the fainting game, purple hazing, and space cowboy, to name a few. The earliest choking game death was reported in 1995.


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