by Michele Zipp
When discussing what's wrong with the world today, we can start by looking at what's happening in schools and with children. There is bullying that seems far worse than anything happening 20 years ago. There is violence of children against children -- Sandy Hook and Columbine just to name two. There are teachers who do inappropriate things. I could go on and on. And so as a result of this, a school has banned hugging. At St. Mary’s County public elementary schools in Maryland, parents can hug their own child, but they cannot hug or touch any other child.
What's sad is everything that is wrong with the world today forces us to make these kinds of rules. And these are the kind of rules that are somewhat dehumanizing. We could become emotionless and rigid. We could end up fearing socialization.
A panel of parents and teachers came up with this rule after a series of meetings. It's not just the hugging that is banned. Kids at St. Mary's County schools cannot hand out party invitations at school in fear those not invited would feel bad. Any food brought in by parents cannot be home-baked and instead must be store-bought with an ingredient list (due to allergies). Parents cannot discipline other people's kids (a rule I very much approve of). They also instated the rule that parents can't walk with their child when he or she leaves the cafeteria and they cannot approach teachers for a meeting in person -- it should be planned. Siblings are not allowed to visit and parents cannot walk with their child when leaving the cafeteria. Anyone visiting the school must check in with the front desk and have their photo taken.
Some of these make sense for safety. Some may be a result of issues the school had. And a lot has to do with what our society has become. These rules were decided upon prior to the Sandy Hook shootings, but because of it, they decided to roll them out sooner. "Everybody’s anxiety is high," Kelly Hall, executive director of elementary schools, told Southern Maryland Newspapers Online.
But I just can't help but think about the hugging. What comes to my mind is that perhaps they fear inappropriate hugs from other parents, which is hopefully a very rare thing. This rule also extends to any kind of touching, so even a high-five would be prohibited. It seems like we make this kind of rule because of a small minority of the population and then everyone has to change to prevent some sort of issue that probably won't happen. I also think a hugging ban isn't going to prevent someone from doing something sinister ... if that's what this is about. Evil doesn't follow rules.
If this rule was in place at my kids' school, we'd have an issue. My daughter hugs everyone -- other moms, other kids, her teachers. Some of the moms we've had playdates with, but she has hugged moms who we've only so far seen at pick-up and drop-off. In this case, it's not one of the parents who initiates the hug, it's the child. What happens then? What kind of action comes when someone breaks this rule? What should a parent do if another child initiates a hug?
Maybe we've gone too far. Maybe we're too worried about too many things. But when we live in a world like we live in and what it's become, I guess we have to be.
What do you think of a no hugging rule? Do you think this school district went too far?