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Punished for Hugging in USA Schools

One reason school authorities might feel threatened by hugs:The more students follow their own feelings, the less they follow the authorities.- . S. Hein

Megan Coulter Story

Vienna, Virgina High School



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Megan Coulter


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 involved."

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," Coulter said.

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 said.

Vienna, Virgina school penalizes students for hugs, high-fives

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 to detention.

"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 anything.

"You get into shades of gray," Kilmer Principal Deborah Hernandez said. "The
kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' "

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 and his
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 what's not.

"I think you should be able to shake hands, high-five and maybe a quick
hug," he said. "Making out goes too far."

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."

Alabama (Prattville) Student Punished for Hugging Classmate Appears on NBC's Today Show

The debate of public displays of affection in school is hitting home in Alabama and has even caught national attention.

The mother of a student in Autauga County says her daughter was disciplined for simply hugging a friend.

Thursday, the mother and daughter appeared on NBC's The Today Show, to talk about their frustration with a punishment they believe is over the line.

"When I went through school, I hugged my friends," said Lea Muir.

Her daughter was given detention Monday at Prattville Junior High School. She called it an overreaction.

"It's a little bit extreme, I think."

But according 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.

Autauga County isn't the only one school district dealing with the issue.

Just last week, a school in Illinois punished a student for the very same thing and a Texas student got in trouble for holding hands with a friend.

"It was 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.

"What's it going to come to next?," she asked. "You can't high five or touch anybody? You can't brush by someone in the hallway?"

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.

WSFA 12 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 considered inappropriate.

Autauga County 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.


Reporter: Mark Bullock markb <<at>>wfsa.com

Copy of a post on a forum

Trying to dictate teenage girls into becoming emotional introverts is like telling a dog it can't bark. It's nonsensical. I mean seriously, how can you tell someone they can't hug a friend who just lost a parent? It's like these administrators have completely lost touch with what it is to be human.

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:

The more you follow your own feelings...

But this was a close match




Life in the USA |