Evidently at Jackson Heights Middle School in Oviedo, Florida, there's an "inappropriate touching" ban for students — something most, if not all, parents would get behind. But apparently "hugging" falls under this blanket also. So when eighth-grade student Ella gave her friends a quick hug before school, she was immediately given detention.
"I just, like, hugged them. It was literally for a second," Ella incredulously told local reporters of "the incident." And her mother, Kathy Fishbough, is in agreement — it's hard for her to believe that her daughter actually got in trouble for something so seemingly innocuous. “I do not feel that this ‘no hugging, holding hands, arm-linking’ would be considered inappropriate touching," Fishbough said.
The school district claims that students are given detentions after repeatedly breaking school rules, and apparently Ella and one of the other kids from The Hug were given a warning last month when he placed his hand on Ella's head. And perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that Fishbough asked the principal of her daughter's school if Ella would get in trouble for giving her cousin a consoling hug were something bad to happen in the family, to which the principal replied, "Yes, ma’am. She would get a PDA."
While it's completely understandable why schools want to monitor the touching that goes on among students on school grounds — especially with young kids — hugs? Really? A hug that's accompanied by a hot and heavy makeout session is one thing, but a friendly — quick! — hug between kids? How is that wrong? And how can school staff not be able to decipher between the two? Shouldn't rules be a bit more nuanced with things like this? What kind of message is this sending to kids? (Besides making them think that hugging is "bad" or "dirty"?)
We are constantly trying to teach our kids compassion these days. We want them to stand up and do the right thing. We want them to express their feelings. Talk to their parents. Talk to their teachers. Tell us what's bothering them. The cause in the past few years has been bullying. Schools and parents — rightfully — have continued to stress the importance of being kind to one another and how there's zero tolerance on bullying.
So, no hugs? Again... really?
Where does that leave us? Where does that leave our kids if they can't offer a friend a hug when they're most in need of it. Few things have the healing powers of human contact; few things express happiness and love and gratitude like a friendly or compassionate hug. If our kids can't do that at school, won't that make them less empathetic toward one another? Won't that make them stifle their emotions and possibly even lash out instead of come together?
I'm all for rules in schools. And I certainly think putting boundaries on how and where kids touch is a good idea. But getting detention for a simple act of kindness — if that's where the hug is coming from — makes no sense at all. Hopefully this silly rule will be amended, and Ella can go back to hugging her friends.
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