Is dodgeball a popular playground game or secretly a tool of oppression that unfairly targets some students?

It's a question asked by a trio of B.C. researchers at a conference organized by the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Vancouver Monday.

"It's tantamount to legalized bullying," study co-presenter Joy Butler, a professor in UBC's faculty of education, told CTV News Vancouver.

In an abstract of their presentation, Kwantlen Polytechnic professor David Burns, Butler and SFU professor Claire Robson argue that the "hidden curriculum" of dodgeball reinforces oppression.

"Dodgeball reinforces the five faces of oppression defined by (theorist Iris Marion Young) as marginalization, powerlessness, and helplessness of those perceived as weaker individuals through the exercise of violence and dominance by those who are considered more powerful," the abstract reads.

By comparing the popular playground game and its rules - where one team tries to eliminate another by hitting them with rubber balls – to Young's theories, the group say dodgeball doesn't help students.

"If you practice ganging up on people, over time you'll esteem ganging up on people. If that's what you want, then dodgeball is an excellent tool to that end," Burns told CTV News Vancouver.

The trio argues the game teaches students to dehumanize one another, creating unsafe conditions in schools, an area that's supposed to foster positive growth.

"Dodgeball is the only game where the human being is the target," said Butler. "No other games focus on it."

Instead, the group calls for teachers to closely examine the games they encourage children to play during physical education, and what those games are encouraging and teaching.

Particularly when it comes to students throwing rubber balls at one another.

"If you're that kid who's already teased for being small, or less strong than others or not having many friends, those things are going to get compounded when not having any friends or not throwing hard is your greatest weakness," said Burns.

The group admits they know they'll face criticism from those who argue the game is fun, or they're not equipping children for what the real world may throw at them.

But they are adamant there is room for aspects of what dodgeball touches on and have it done in a different manner.

"We're not anti-competition or anti-challenge," said Robson. "These things need to be done in an educational context."

The trio also point out they're not calling for a ban on dodgeball, rather they want to debate its pros and cons.

Butler and Robson said they believe their presentation was positively received by roughly 85 per cent of their audience at the Vancouver conference, while the remaining 15 per cent wasn't as supportive.

The game's popularity has led to international sports federations championing the game, such as the World Dodgeball Federation and the World Dodgeball Association.

The Vancouver presentation was part of a larger discussion on the challenges teachers and educators face in promoting physical education.