Portland school hug-ban makes national news

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By Christina Rainey,
Oregon mom
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A Portland middle school recently captured the national spotlight with their decision to ban hugging.  The so-called “hug ban” was highlighted in a recent USA Today article, illustrating a national trend of placing restrictions on disruptive behaviors in public schools, such as hugging. Schools in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia have issued similar bans or restrictions on hugs.

The Oregonian, shares that the principal of West Sylvan Middle School, Allison Couch, issued the ban because the hugging was so disruptive that students could not pass each other in the hallway without a hug and were often late to classes because of a lengthy embrace.  Sometimes students would run down the hall to meet a friend and hug, an action that some found intolerable.  Additionally, there were reports of hugging being used as a form of mockery. In once instance, two eighth-grade girls hugged a seventh-grade boy, which was believed to be a mean-spirited way of hazing.

This controversial decision raises a simple question: Should “hugging” be allowed in schools?

While some may welcome the new ban as a way to ensure students are in an environment that cultivates learning, it concerns me that the disruptive behavior, tardiness and mocking spiraled out of control so quickly. If a student is late for class, give them detention. In an environment where our children grow up communicating by way of text message and instant messaging, we should be embracing physical contact as a healthy way to communicate.  Adolescence is a confusing and awkward time for middle schoolers and I think that consoling a fellow student with a hug should be refreshing.  Harassment, however, is a serious issue, that needs to be dealt with. But a universal ban, punishing students for expressing emotion, is not the way to solve this problem.

It seems that it would be easier to enforce or perhaps modify “common sense” guidelines, including showing respect for classmates, teachers and staff while at school.  It is possible that the students’ rambunctious behavior, bullying, and insincere hugs could be curtailed with punishments, such as detention.  What are we teaching our children about interaction with our peers? That all students should avoid touching and expressions because of the threat of a lawsuit by the overzealous parent? West Sylvan Middle School should lift the ban on hugs and punish those students who fail to show respect for their fellow students, teachers and administrators, as necessary.

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