A Florida eighth grader received detention recently for a highly unusual reason. Noting that her male friend was having a bad day, she offered him a hug not realizing she was violating the school’s rigid policy against public displays of affection (PDA). Have we really reached a point where kids aren’t allowed to touch each other at all in school? This just doesn’t feel right.
Ella Fishbough, 14, had never gotten in trouble in school until the grave offense of hugging a friend landed her in detention. From The Washington Post, she says “It was literally for a second,” but apparently, a second was all it took. According to the Seminole County School District’s code of conduct, her behavior was worthy of punishment. It prohibits “inappropriate or obscene acts” such as “unwelcome or inappropriate touching, or any other physical act that is considered to be offensive, socially unacceptable or not suitable for an educational setting.”
So, friendly hugs are now considered socially unacceptable or not suitable for an educational setting? This school seems to think so, as hugging of all types was banned in the district last year. I can understand being sure kids keep their hands to themselves, but there is a huge difference between something sexual or inappropriate and a friendly hug. I’m having trouble understanding the value of giving a teenage girl detention for something so totally normal.
Ella’s mother Kathy told WFTV that in speaking with the school, her daughter would be in trouble even if the person she hugged were family. “I did ask the principal, ‘If something had happened in our family, and she needed to console her cousin, or her cousin wanted to console her, would Ella get in trouble? She said, ‘Yes, ma’am. She would get a PDA.’”
While I can grasp the need for rules regarding inappropriate touching, this is taking things way too far. Kids spend all day with their classmates and become close friends. To not allow an innocent hug between students that doesn’t go beyond that is ridiculous. It’s not as though they were making out or feeling each other up. To expect kids and teens to never express any kind of physical affection toward one another on school grounds is unrealistic and punishes good students like Fishbaugh for no reason. I would also venture that it creates an unhealthy attitude about affection. Shouldn’t students be able to hug or put an arm around each other in a friendly way so they can understand that there is a good kind of touch that is allowed, even in school?
When my daughter came home recently and told me a teacher reprimanded her and a male friend for holding hands on their way down the hall from recess, I thought she was surely exaggerating. She’s only in third grade, little kids hold hands sometimes. I saw no issue. Upon speaking with her teacher at a recent class party, I confirmed that it was true. Even at the elementary level, though it’s not specified in the school handbook, teachers are encouraging kids to keep their hands off each other regardless of the intent behind it. I don’t think this is healthy for the kids and I don’t see how it helps them learn anything valuable. There is a difference between good and bad touch. School seems like a logical place for kids to touch in a friendly and appropriate way. If my child received detention for this kind of “offense,” I might take it to the local news too, because this is not the kind of environment I want my kids learning in.