Give a hug, get detention.
Or maybe not. An outcry erupted last week when Principal Tyler Blackmore of Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School in New Jersey announced a no hugging policy over the school’s loudspeaker. He told approximately 900 students that they were now attending a "no hugging school."
The hugging ban was put in place after Blackmore witnessed some "unsuitable, physical interactions." He seems to have forgotten what it’s like to be a young teen.
District officials think the entire episode has been blown out of proportion. Though there is a hugging ban, they told the Associated Press that it is an unofficial policy and will not result in punishment. They’re simply asking students not to get their hug on.
Matawan-Aberdeen is not the first school to implement a hugging ban, reports ABC News. A school in Portland, Ore. instituted the policy after realizing that some students weren’t comfortable with the action. Plus, the principal wanted to deter teenage girls from running through the hallways on a mission to hug all their friends.
Oddly enough, a school hugging ban is probably legal. Schools have significant leeway in creating campus policies. Besides dress codes, they can generally ban behavior that they see as inappropriate or disruptive. This includes hugs.
For better or for worse, an unwanted hug can be considered sexual harassment. How would you feel if your teenage stalker hugged you? What about your arch nemesis, who has turned to hugs as a way to pass on nasty messages? Huh?
Okay, well maybe that only happens between girls. But either way, there are times when a hugging ban is a good, solidly permissible idea.
- Report: Matawan-Aberdeen middle school issues hugging ban (Star-Ledger)
- Ten Commonly Asked Questions on Student Rights (FindLaw)
- Florida to Ban Saggy Pants in School? (FindLaw’s Law & Daily Life)