A school has banned pupils from hugging - in case it leads to sexual activity.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, principal of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, for boys and girls aged from 11 to 14, imposed a ban on cuddling and touching amid fears it could encourage "inappropriate" behaviour.
All kids caught breaking the new rule and hugging a fellow pupil of either sex are to be given detentions.
The Hackney branch of the National Union of Teachers rubbished the idea, saying it was "silly" and "militaristic".
Spokesman Mark Lushington added that the rule would make teachers feel "very uncomfortable".
He quipped: "There are very few places in Hackney where people say 'don't go there - you will get hugged'. I'd rather kids in Hackney were huggers than muggers.
"I don't know where they got the idea from. The idea that you can legislate for this I find very inappropriate. It's very militaristic and it's symptomatic of an addiction to policing. There really needs to be more common sense in dealing with these kinds of things.
"Supposing somebody's mum has just died I think it's natural that you put your arm round them.
"I taught in a secondary school for 16 years and I've seen various different attempts to legislate to the smallest detail like this one, however this is just silly.
Mr Lushington said many academies had gone over the top on discipline - seeing it as a "selling point" to parents.
And he added: "I think having to put kids in detention for this will make teachers feel very uncomfortable. Teachers need to be able to react to situations that might be deemed inappropriate according to the exact situation, not just to say 'you're in detention'."
No-one from the school would comment about the matter.
However, explaining the ban, Sir Michael told a local newspaper his decision was not based on any serious incident at the school.
He said: "We don't want any accusations in the future of people touching each other inappropriately.
"We believe that contact between students should be formal contact, and hugging in the playground could lead to serious accusations being made.
"There's nothing wrong with youngsters linking arms or shaking hands with each other, but what we don't want is overt kinds of affection that could be seen as inappropriate behaviour.
"We are running a well-ordered institution and we want the children to conduct themselves properly."
Despite Mr Lushington's reservations, one grandmother of a Year 7 pupil at Mossbourne, Sheila O'Connell, backed the ban.
She said: "At their age teenagers don't even want their parents hugging them, so this is probably a good idea."
Another parent Shahid Hussain said: "I've heard about the new rule and I agree with it.
"There are a lot of things that pupils can avoid by not hugging because it could lead to more serious things.
"I support the idea because I don't want my kids to have any distractions. The reason they are at school in the first place is to learn and get a good job and have a good future."
Mossbourne, which opened in 2004, was Hackney's first academy school
February 27, 2001
Web posted at: 3:04 PM EST (2004 GMT)
PEQUOT LAKES, Minnesota (AP) -- Teachers at Pequot Lakes School are telling students to just say no to hugs.
Hugging has become a standard greeting and way to say goodbye at Pequot Lakes, with some students saying they get 40 to 60 hugs a day from friends. But the school isn't embracing the idea.
Teachers are doling out reprimands to students caught hugging in the hallway. They are punished with detention if caught three times in a day or four times a week.
School officials "think it's sexual and it's not appropriate," said Ashley Bennett, 12, who has been written up for hugging. "But that's how people express their feelings. It makes people feel better."
The school doesn't have an official policy, but administrators believe the hugging is unnecessary.
"We don't have a hugging epidemic because we've clamped down on that," said Chuck Arns, a Pequot Lakes principal. "It has a tendency to change the atmosphere in school."
A school in the DC area public school has banned all physical contact between students, including shaking hands.
Fairfax County middle school student Hal Beaulieu hopped up from his lunch table one day a few months ago, sat next to his girlfriend and slipped his arm around her shoulder. That landed him a trip to the school office. Among his crimes: hugging.
All touching — not only fighting or inappropriate touching — is against the rules at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned. The rule has been conveyed to students this way: “NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!!!”
School officials say the rule helps keep crowded hallways and lunchrooms safe and orderly, and ensures that all students are comfortable. But Hal, 13, and his parents think the school’s hands-off approach goes too far, and they are lobbying for a change. “I think hugging is a good thing,” said Hal, a seventh-grader, a few days before the end of the school year. “I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.”
A Fairfax schools spokesman said there is no countywide ban like the one at Kilmer, but many middle schools and some elementary schools have similar “keep your hands to yourself” rules. Officials in Arlington, Loudoun and Prince George’s counties said schools in those systems prohibit inappropriate touching and disruptive behavior but don’t forbid all contact.
Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer’s principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100. She said that students should have their personal space protected and that many lack the maturity to understand what is acceptable or welcome.
But isn’t school, a safe environment where maturing youngsters are surrounded by trained adults whose job it is to teach them, an ideal place to develop that understanding?
In her defense, Hernandez acknowledges that there is some flexibility in the enforcement of the rule, with teachers expected to exercise sound judgment. Still, absolute rules — especially silly ones — teach disregard for authority. A ban on fighting and extreme public displays of affection? Sure. Shaking hands, a time-honored social custom that’s considered an essential of etiquette in the real world? Not so much.
Counselors have heard from girls who are uncomfortable hugging boys but embarrassed to tell anyone. And in a culturally diverse school, officials say, families might have different views of what is appropriate.
Toleration and understanding of different perspectives is a valuable thing. There are, however, limits. If we ban anything that anyone considers offensive, nothing is permissible. Rules should reflect things on which there is broad consensus, not the preferences of some small sect. (Are we going to ban anti-depressants because Scientology believes them bad? What if Tom Cruise’s kids are in the class?)
Furthermore, trying to enforce these bans via a broad ban misses out on the opportunity for teachable moments. Most people, when learning that some acquaintance has an unusual cultural preference, will adjust their relations with said acquaintance accordingly. If some kid in the class can’t shake hands because the Great Chicken Mimbo has deemed it taboo, then teach the other students about that. That’s far more conducive to building good cultural relations than making blanket, unexplained bans.
UPDATE: Other reactions (Via Memeorandum):
Jonathan Blanks tosses off several amusing quips before concluding, “We certainly wouldn’t want children to learn how to interact with one another, now would we?”
Ogged: “You know that great demotivator, ‘None of us is as dumb as all of us’? Surely this is most true of school administrators.”
(CBS) OAK PARK, Ill. Schools just say no to bullying and fighting, but hugging? CBS 2 West Suburban Bureau Chief Mike Puccinelli reports that a local middle school wants the embracing to stop.
"Last year we would see maybe as many as 10 students on one side (of the hallway), 10 on the other and then, going in opposite directions, would sort of have a hug line going on and you could see where that would be a problem," said Victoria Sharts, principal of Oak Park's Percy Julian Middle School.
So this year Sharts decided to draw the line on hug lines by banning all hugging among students within the building.
Sharts said, "Hugging is really more appropriate for airports or for family reunions than passing and seeing each other every few minutes in the halls."
When teachers started enforcing the new policy last month all hallways and classrooms in the 860-student school became hug-free zones.
When our cameras rolling during passing period today there was no hugging to be seen.
Sixth grader Isabella Miller disagrees with the crackdown. "I don't think that that's right"
Her father agrees with her.
"It seems like a crazy idea to me," Mark Miller said.
The principal says the rampant hugging is creating bottle necks in the hallway and making kids late for class. Furthermore she says although hugs are supposed to be handshakes from the heart some times they don't seem so innocent.
"Too long, too close, and usually between boys and girls," Sharts said.
After school, while safely outside the building, the students seemed determined to show what they think of the policy, one hug at a time.
Sharts said the hug ban is just one element of a comprehensive discipline and anti-bullying plan. High-fiving in the hallways is also frowned upon.
Where Students Can't Hug
By STEVEN GRAY/CHICAGO
Thursday, November 15, 2007, 3:20 AM ET
Megan Coulter, a Mascoutah, Ill., eighth-grader, served two after-school detentions last week. Her offense? Hugging two friends and therefore violating the Mascoutah Middle School's ban on public displays of affection.
Coulter's case drew dozens of newspaper headlines and landed her on NBC's Today Show. But it also illustrates a key challenge facing America's schools: When is a hug inappropriate - or "extreme," as its been dubbed by some administrators? And, more broadly, how far should schools go in policing the behavior of a generation that often takes its social cues from Paris Hilton and Britney Spears?
Student-on-student public displays of affection (PDAs) have long been problematic for school administrators and parents. Experts say anti-PDA policies have existed for nearly two decades, although it's not known how many schools and school districts have imposed such rules. In 1999, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling held schools responsible for creating environments free of harassment among students; that decision then led many lawsuit-averse administrators to ban most forms of student contact - except, of course, for high-contact sports like football and wrestling. Among the most extreme policies is in Vienna, Va., where the Kilmer Middle School has a blanket "No Contact" rule that bans even high-fives. The Fossil Hill Middle School in Fort Worth, Texas, has banned students from hugging and holding hands. Earlier this year, the Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, Illinois, banned hugs.
Other schools have a broad ban on "inappropriate displays of affection," or IPDAs. Proponents say it gives school administrators more discretion in interpreting what constitutes "inappropriate" behavior. Yet that same discretion potentially exposes administrators to accusations of unfairly targeting, say, a Latina for braiding a friend's hair, or for showing favoritism by failing to reprimand the football team's quarterback who playfully smacks a teammate's back after a win.
Practical considerations - like hallway traffic control - are behind some of these no-contact measures. For example, at Iowa City, Iowa's South East Junior High School, girls who hadn't seen each other for an entire 42-minute class often stopped to hug each other in hallways during the four-minute break between classes. The hugging clogged the 700-student school's hallways. So Deb Wretman, the principal, developed a "hands-off, or handshake" slogan to limit greetings to a handshake. (She is loath to call it a "policy," and points out that "you won't find anything in our handbook that refers to 'no hugs' or 'public displays of affection.'") While there's no penalty for "violating the slogan," Wretman says the effort has significantly reduced hallway congestion.
Under the most extreme anti-PDA policies, however, even a student who hugs a friend whose parent has just died could potentially face suspension. The lack of nuance in such policies bothers critics like Lisa Graybill, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Texas Chapter. "Preventing harassment and teaching kids to respect each other is important, but having yet another reason for kids' behavior to be criminalized is unnecessary," she says. "It's draconian to ban all forms of touch."
Megan Coulter's case began in earnest at a sports event a couple of weeks ago. Her parents say her southern Illinois school's vice principal asked her and a male friend to stop hugging. Then, on Nov. 2, Megan stood near a bus in the school's parking lot and put her arm around a male friend's shoulder. The vice principal, who did not return calls seeking comment, immediately issued a detention order. Minutes later, as Megan walked across the school's front lawn, a female friend gave her a hug. The vice principal issued the second detention order.
"I honestly think I shouldn't have been punished, because the hugs were nothing inappropriate," Megan, 13, said in a Today show interview, her face expressionless, her brown hair pulled back, one hand clutching her mother's. "There wasn't bodies pressed up against each other."
Now, says her mother Melissa Coulter, Megan is being shunned by friends, whose parents deem her a "bad influence." Yet the Coulters say they still support anti-PDA policies, particularly for teenagers. "I don't want them to be all over each other in the hallways," Melissa Coulter told TIME on Sunday. "We just need to clarify how they apply it. Maybe the administrators weren't given enough latitude in using their judgment." The Coulters are waiting to see if Megan's school reviews the policy for the next year. If that does not happen, they will take the issue to the school board.