British Columbia

North Van grads undressing for 'Gotcha' game has school district worried

The North Vancouver School District is notifying parents about a tag-like game involving public nudity that's being played by some graduating students.

Officials warn Grade 12 game — which can involve public nudity — is inappropriate and illegal

North Vancouver parents are being warned about a game called "Gotcha" which is a tradition amongst graduating grade 12 students. (Shutterstock / Rawpixel.com)

The North Vancouver School District is notifying parents about a tag-like game involving public nudity that's being played by some graduating students. 

"Gotcha" is a long-standing tradition among Grade 12s, but in a letter North Vancouver District Principal Brad Baker warns the game is "inappropriate, illegal and could have lifelong consequences."

"The game is not school-sanctioned and we urge parents to encourage their children not to take part. While the act itself of undressing in public is unacceptable, it is particularly alarming that students are capturing photos on their smart phones and sometimes, sharing the photos on social media," wrote Baker.

Players of Gotcha pay a fee to join the game and are assigned another player as a target. 

Strip to stay alive

Targets are eliminated from the game if they are physically tagged in public, however, in some versions of the game a tagged student can stay alive by stripping naked within 30 seconds of being tagged.

"It was brought to our attention by a parent that at some, but not all of the schools, nudity has entered the game. Since student safety is our top priority we felt it was our responsibility to advise parents," said communications director Deneka Michaud. 

The rules of Gotcha vary but in most versions it seems that school, school activities, workplaces and cars are locations that are considered out of bounds.

Players can make themselves safe from being tagged by wearing a crazy costume, or they can rejoin the game a limited number of times after getting tagged by paying a fee.

The last student alive collects the pot of money.

Grads in North Vancouver have been playing Gotcha for well over a decade with nudity as an option but the advent of social media has changed the nature of the game.

Potential of child pornography

Baker's letter to parents also cautions that students in possession of nude photos of other students can potentially face child pornography charges. The letter also warns of other pitfalls.

"Once photos are captured digitally and shared in the online realm it is virtually impossible to retract them .The photos will most likely remain accessible online for students' entire lives, which could have devastating consequences as they apply for post-secondary institutions or career opportunities in the future."

Gotcha is also played in other Lower Mainland schools and districts. Burnaby South Secondary has a Grad Gotcha 2017 Facebook group, although the posted rules do not mention undressing as part of the game.

With files from Lito Howse