MASCOUTAH, Ill. - Two hugs equals
two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan
Coulter. The eighth-grader was punished for
violating a school policy banning public displays
of affection when she hugged two friends Friday.
"I feel it is crazy," said Megan, who
was to serve her second detention Tuesday after
classes at Mascoutah Middle School.
"I was just giving them a hug goodbye for
the weekend," she said.
Megan's mother, Melissa Coulter, said the
embraces weren't even real hugs just an
arm around the shoulder and slight squeeze.
"It's hilarious to the point of
ridicule," Coulter said. "I'm still
dumbfounded that she's having to do this."
District Superintendent Sam McGowen said that he
thinks the penalty is fair and that
administrators in the school east of St. Louis
were following policy in the student handbook.
It states: "Displays of affection should not
occur on the school campus at any time. It is in
poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings
discredit to the school and to the persons
Coulter said she and her husband told their
daughter to go ahead and serve her detentions
because the only other option was a day of
suspension for each skipped detention.
"We don't agree with it, but I certainly
don't want her to get in more trouble,"
The couple plan to attend the next school board
meeting to ask board members to consider
rewording the policy or be more specific in what
is considered a display of affection.
"I'm just hoping the school board will open
their eyes and just realize that maybe they
shouldn't be punishing us for hugs," Megan
Strict no-contact rule, meant to stem
violence, has some pushing for change
VIENNA, Va. - A rule against physical contact at
a Fairfax County middle
school is so strict that students can be sent to
the principal's office for
hugging, holding hands or even high-fiving.
Unlike some schools in the Washington area, which
ban fighting or
inappropriate touching, Kilmer Middle School in
Vienna bans all touching
and that has some parents lobbying for a change.
Hugging was Hal Beaulieu's crime when he sat next
to his girlfriend at lunch
a few months ago and put his arm around her
shoulder. He was given a
warning, but told that repeat missteps could lead
"I think hugging is a good thing," said
Hal, a seventh-grader. "I put my arm
around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't
think it would be a big
But at a school of 1,100 students that was meant
to accommodate 850, school
officials think some touching can turn into a big
deal. They've seen pokes
lead to fights, gang signs in the form of
handshakes or girls who are
uncomfortable being hugged but embarrassed to say
"You get into shades of gray," Kilmer
Principal Deborah Hernandez said. "The
kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do
Hernandez said the no-touching rule is meant to
ensure that all students are
comfortable and crowded hallways and lunchrooms
stay safe. She said school
officials are allowed to use their judgment in
enforcing the rule.
Typically, only repeat offenders are reprimanded.
'Making out goes too far'
But such a strict
policy doesn't seem necessary to 13-year-old Hal
parents, who have written a letter to the county
school board asking for a
review of the rule. Hugging is encouraged in
their home, and their son has
been taught to greet someone with a handshake.
Hal said he feels he knows what's appropriate and
"I think you should be able to shake hands,
high-five and maybe a quick
hug," he said. "Making out goes too
His parents said they agree that teenagers need
to have clear limits but
don't want their son to be taught that physical
contact is bad.
"How do kids learn what's right and what's
wrong?" Henri Beaulieu asked.
"They are all smart kids, and they can draw
lines. If they cross them, they
can get in trouble. But I don't think it would
happen too often."
The debate of
public displays of affection in school is hitting
home in Alabama and has even caught national
The mother of a
student in Autauga County says her daughter was
disciplined for simply hugging a friend.
mother and daughter appeared on NBC's The Today Show,
to talk about their frustration with a punishment
they believe is over the line.
went through school, I hugged my friends," said
Her daughter was
given detention Monday at Prattville Junior High School.
She called it an overreaction.
little bit extreme, I think."
the Autauga County School System's code of conduct,
"Inappropriate public displays of affection,
including but not limited to embracing and kissing"
are not allowed.
isn't the only one school district dealing with the
Just last week,
a school in Illinois disciplined <punished>a
student for the very same thing and a Texas student
got in trouble for holding hands with a friend.
made to be something ugly and it wasn't," Muir said.
She says the hug
wasn't meant to be sexual. She says her daughter was
consoling a male friend who recently lost a parent.
going to come to next?," she asked. "You can't
high five or touch anybody? You can't brush by someone in
Muir says her
daughter served out her punishment and she doesn't plan
to take any legal action. But she encourages the school
system to reevaluate its policy.
News checked with other local school systems and
found a more leeway in their codes of
conduct. In Montgomery and Elmore counties, for
example, touching must be of a sexual nature to be
school officials didn't agree to an on-camera
interview, but told WSFA 12 News, they were simply
following the rules.
In 1999, the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled schools could be held liable by
ignoring claims of sexual harassment. Some say the
ruling puts schools between a rock and a hard place.
By not identifying all suspect behavior, they risk
liability. But when they do, they often hear
complaints from parents.
Mark Bullock markb <<at>>wfsa.com
One reason school authorities might not want children
and teens to hug in schools could be the fear of this:
The more they follow their own feelings, the less
they follow you
Note- As of March 25, 2011 no results were found for
that quote in Google. Nor for this one: