Walnut Middle School officials learned of students who had played a game to pass out and get high following a presentation made to the student body on Friday.
Walnut Principal Vikki Deuel said Monday that school officials spoke individually with each grade there about the dangers of playing such a game.
Two Hastings parents say their 12-year-old son, Nathan McGinnis, died on Jan. 18 while playing the "pass out" or "knock out" game. Nathan's father, Tony, found the boy in a bedroom in the McGinnis home.
Those playing the game use any of a variety of methods to deprive themselves or others of oxygen until they pass out. The lack of oxygen is supposed to produce a high or wild dreams.
The talk given to students stemmed from that incident and an incident involving a Walnut student last month, school counselor Mary Ann Richards said.
"Shortly after that, we heard about that boy," she said of McGinnis. "We thought we needed to be checking into this more."
Deuel said school officials had talked with students about making good choices and not putting themselves or their friends in danger, as well as the legal consequences and physical effects of playing the game.
Walnut resource officer Rick Ressel, a police officer assigned to the school, explained what could happen if they were involved in a dangerous activity or involved their friends in it, she said.
"(He said) they could be negligent if they hurt someone and could be breaking the law," Deuel said.
Following the presentations, students began to trickle into Richards' office and told of friends who had played the game or that they had seen the game being played.
About 12 to 15 students either came to the office to report the activity or had played the game, Deuel said.
The game is far from new.
Mike Zulkoski and John Golka, principals at Northwest and Central Catholic, and Deuel remembered when the game was played in their day.
"I think it's been happening for a real long time," Deuel said. "I remember it when I was in junior high. That doesn't make it OK."
Grand Island Senior High Principal Kent Mann said the game was more likely to be an issue with middle schools. However, he said some ninth-graders at Senior High had been exposed to it.
"It seems to be more of a juvenile activity," Mann said.
Richards said she was not surprised that Walnut students had come to her because they cared a lot about their friends.
"They're still willing to trust adults about that and are still wanting to keep their friends safe," she said.
Richards said students were attentive during the presentations and talked with their teachers afterward, asking questions.
"I sure heard a lot of kids say that they did not know it was dangerous and 'I'd never do that,'" she said.
Deuel said school officials talked with students who had played the game and talked with their parents. Those who were aware of their children's behavior already had discussed the game with their children, while parents who were unaware said they planned to talk with their children.
"Kids at this age think they're infallible and nothing can happen to them," she said. "As a kid, you think it happens to the other guy but not you."
Both Zulkoski and Golka said they hadn't heard of their students were playing the game.