Hardly harmless planks: principals

One member of the Otago Secondary Principals' Association is suggesting all schools consider banning "planking" before someone is seriously injured or killed, while another is tackling the issue by trying not to make a big deal of it.

Planking involves people balancing face-down on top of objects with their hands at their sides, and posting photographs of their stunts on the internet.

The global craze has become popular rapidly, with yesterday being named National Planking Day by some enthusiasts, despite apparent dangers.

It claimed the life of Australian man Acton Beale (20) on May 15 when he slipped and fell several storeys to his death while planking on a narrow balcony railing in Brisbane.

At least one person has been arrested for planking on top of a police car and others have reported being fired from their jobs for their office planks.

More recently, a school pupil was caught performing the act on a railway line in front of an oncoming KiwiRail train, and a Carmel College pupil in Auckland was disciplined after posting pictures of herself online, dangerously balanced on top of school buildings.

Secondary Principals' Association New Zealand president Patrick Walsh has put out an advisory to schools and parents, warning them of the dangers of the craze, and said pupils caught performing dangerous acts could face suspension.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association acting chairman Philip Craigie said online crazes often created a constant drive by pupils to attempt something slightly more risky than the last person.

"At first glance, it seems harmless. But when people start to try and outdo each other, that's when things start turning sour.

"Everything has its dangers," he said.

"We have a responsibility as schools to put things in place to keep [pupils] safe."

John McGlashan College principal Mike Corkery said he had seen evidence of the practice at school, and the boys had been warned about the dangers.

However, he had decided not to ban planking because he believed it would exacer-bate the problem.

"In my view, it's a silly craze, and the more we talk about it, the more likely we are to lead people to do something silly," he said.

"You can't decree what kids can or can't do. Otherwise you're just encouraging them to have a go at it.

"The less said about idiotic behaviour that could have serious consequences, the better.

"That's not just about planking, it's about anything that puts the boys in danger."



Q & A with a 'planker'

Former Dunedin man Paul Carran (27) is credited with introducing "planking", or "extreme lying down", to this part of the world. He talks to Hamish McNeilly.

Q: Extreme lying down or planking?

A: Extreme lying down all the way. It's the original name ... Planking ... reminds me too much of an exercise at the gym.

Q: Why?

A: Well, I do it just for laughs really. It's all a bit of innocent fun - that's if you do it within the rules of the law and safety.

Q: What are the rules?

A: There are no real rules. Just lie face down, hands by side and stay straight.

Q: How did it start?

A: I got put on to a game called "the lying down game" by a friend in the United Kingdom. Me and a friend of mine, Justin Kemp, thought we would take it to the extreme and kick it off down our part of the world ...

Q: How big is it now?

A: It's epic how big it has got over the past month.

Q: Do you believe it is dangerous?

A: It all depends on how/where you do it. Some can be but that depends on the individual or location.

Q: Some of your photos look dangerous. Is that the case?

A: Some may well be, but I assessed the location and the risks before I did them and I made sure myself and anyone around me were safe.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: Extreme lying down or planking is all in good fun. Nobody is making anybody do it. It is their own choice to do it but in a safe manner ... if you choose to partake, just be safe.



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