• Detention for Hugging??

    Date: 11.07.07 | by Judge Tom.

    It’s not just carbonated drinks and cupcakes that are off-limits at many middle schools – the ban has grown to include playing tag on the playground and yes, even hugging a friend.

    13-year-old Megan Coulter, an 8th-grader at Mascoutah Middle School in Illinois hugged two friends goodbye last Friday.  In doing so, she violated the school’s policy prohibiting any “display of affection” on the school’s campus.  Megan served two days of detention and, after being challenged by her parents, the school district agreed to look into revising the policy.

    Photo by Fishbwl (Flickr)

    In October, 2007 an 11th-grader and his girlfriend were caught on camera while kissing on the school bus.  Both were expelled for the remainder of the year.  They are challenging the school’s action claiming an overzealous enforcement of a school rule. For details see the Blog posted January 30, 2008 about a kiss on the school bus:  http://askthejudge.info/kissing-on-school-bus-results-in-expulsion/188/

    In November, 2011, 14 year-old Nick Martinez hugged a girl, at Southwest Middle School in Florida. “Honestly, I didn’t know because I didn’t think hugging was a bad thing. . . .I didn’t know you could get suspended for it.” But that’s what happened to Nick and the girl. They were each given a one-day in-school suspension and the incident may remain on their records. Nick’s mother plans to address the school board and pursue a change in the zero-tolerance hugging policy.

    Other schools that have cracked down on PDAs [public displays of affection] include Fossil Hills Middle School in Texas [no holding hands or hugging]; Percy Julian Middle School in Illinois [no extreme hugging in hallways]; and Kilmer Middle School in Virginia [no physical contact including high fives].  In February, 2008, 14-year-old Chelsea Branham got detention for hugging a friend after school.  The PDA policy at Shepherd Junior High in Mesa, Arizona permits ‘small hugs’ – less than two seconds – longer hugs and kissing are against the rules.  Some students protested the policy by joining in a group hug across the street from the school.  In February, 2010,  West Sylvan Middle School in Oregon banned hugging at school.  A “culture of hugging” among the 7th and 8th-graders led to abuses including bullying by unwelcome hugs and attempts to arouse boys with lengthy hugs.

    In October, 2012, Chase Middle School in North Carolina reportedly became a “no-hugging school.” It was determined that hugs were inappropriate behavior on campus and were disruptive to the environment. However, a few days later, the school put out a statement that there was no hugging ban. The principal did speak with some students about inappropriate displays of affection at school. The issue continues to be contentious in many schools across the country.

    In December, 2013, a 6-year-old boy was suspended from school in Canon City, Colorado for kissing a classmate. He had kissed the same girl once before and the school considers it sexual harassment since it’s repeat behavior. Do you think a child this age can honestly form an intent to harass someone he’s attracted to? It’s debatable but some guidance is called for here by his parents.

    What do you think about these new rules?  The hug has become a universal greeting, but is it acceptable in the school setting? What about other displays of affection like kissing or holding hands?  Should there be limits?

    Discipline for hugging began as early as 2001 when Pequot Middle School in Minnesota gave two-hour detentions for three hugs in a day or four in a week.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    7 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Savanna
      Sat, 29 Nov 2008 at 07:24

      I think hugging is natural. I like to hug my friends to show i love them. Hugging is almost natural and its not PDA. (Its not like your kissing or anything)I belive its an outrage to get in trouble for something children give thier mom at night.

      Judge Tom’s response:
      Good point, Savanna. Schools are concerned about long hugs and maybe what should be called PPDAs – passionate public displays of affection. Some schools have even established a 2 or 3-second rule which, when broken, results in detention or some other form of discipline. Both you and the school have legitimate concerns which call for a compromise that is satisfactory to all.

    • Savannah
      Tue, 31 Mar 2009 at 11:35

      Huggin is the new hand shake…

    • julie
      Tue, 26 May 2009 at 09:03

      per group (8 teen boys), students should be allowed to high-five, hold hands, hug, and kiss on campus

    • insortere
      Sat, 11 Jun 2011 at 02:05

      hi nice thread you have going here.
      Thank you!

    • mike
      Thu, 06 Oct 2011 at 12:29

      To ban hugging at school is to brainwash our children into becoming selfish snobs as adults.

      To ban hugging at school is to make sure everyone knows that school is really prison.

      Next thing you know, schools nationwide may as well just put up guard towers, fences with coiled razor ribbon tops, and hire military personnell with M-16s and sniper rifles to patrol the school campus.

    • mike
      Mon, 13 Feb 2012 at 09:20

      Next after that will be total separation of all boys and girls, then leg shackles, chains, and bright orange uniforms required to be worn by all students, and then cell blocks on the school property, and then no more being allowed to go home on weekends, then for Christmas, then for summer, and then armed soldiers smashing down doors arresting children, snatching them away from their parents, and sentencing them to 12 years in prison (school).
      Let’s hope, Mike, your prediction doesn’t come to pass.

    • Mandy
      Thu, 10 May 2012 at 01:54

      My daughter just received a detention for holding hands with her boyfriend. I’m fighting it by going through all of the appeals along with her boyfriends dad. I’m wondering if you have any advice to offer me when we meet with the teachers.
      Dear Mandy: The bottom line is whether a school rule was broken or not. Many schools today have policies regarding PDAs (public displays of affection). Take a look at the Student Handbook and see what it says about this. The penalties should be clear if the rule is violated. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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