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Banning Hugs & High Fives in School

Annie Condron

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Say good bye to hugs, high fives and touching in school. (Reminder: a wave or text will suffice as a parting exchange unless you want detention).

Schools are banning hugs and other physical contact because it is interfering with students’ educational experience.

Banning Hugs & High Fives in SchoolPrincipal Couch and her Oregon middle school aren’t the only ones on the anti-hugging bandwagon. Schools in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Iowa, Florida, Texas and even in Cambridge, England, have enforced hugging bans and no-touch rules.


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The new rules are spurring debate among educators and parents across the country.

Pro-Hugging in Schools Argument

Some parents and students see this as an infringement on students’ rights and an over-reaction to a harmless hug, especially since students could face detention, suspension or possible expulsion.

There is also the argument that friendly hugging and appropriate physical contact is important to social development during difficult, emotional periods of childhood and adolescent development.

Dr. Karen Rayne, PhD is a sex educator and expert in adolescent sexuality in Austin, Texas who voiced her dissent against such rules in her blog, writing:

Banning Hugs & High Fives in School“...this school ban of hugs is really based on: fear of adolescent sexuality. Hugs can be amazingly sensual, sexy things. And administrators don't want that in their hallways. But hugs are… also amazingly human.

And we must not dehumanize the school building more than it already is - with guards, metal detectors, regular locker searches, concrete yards, no windows in the classrooms. It sounds more like a prison than a school. And now we're beginning to regulate genuine, humanizing touch between the young people at these institutions.

Perhaps what we need is more hugs, not less. Perhaps we need to recognize the humanity, including the need for physical touch, that exists in young people, rather than lock them away and treat them as though they are criminals.”

Pro-hugging supporters say it is up to educators and administrators to use their judgment to differentiate “good touching” from “bad touching.”

There is also a question of where schools will draw the line. Is it banned on during the school day, any time on school property, during school sporting or extracurricular events, etc. It's just murky territory.

Anti-Hugging in Schools Argument

It is important to note that many parents are supportive of these bans and many students don’t care either way.


When Hugging Hurts

Administrators who support banning hugs, high fives and touching in school cite specific examples of how hugging became a disruption to learning. They claim there were instances in which:


  • high fives or play fighting evolved into violence,
  • regular hugfests between classes regularly impinged on class time
  • hugs were used to mock students
  • unwelcome hugs bordered on sexual harassment


In an article in The Oregonian, they cite one particular troubling incident:


“In a March 10 memo written to other school district officials, Couch wrote, ‘Several parents have called because their child is being hugged, and because there is a 'culture of hugging' here they didn't feel that they could say no.’


In at least one case, hugging was used as a form of mockery -- when two eighth-grade girls hugged a seventh-grade boy, she said.


"'They did that to be mean,'" Couch said the boy told her later. "'They don't like me. They did that to be mean.'"


Also, parents reported that girls were using hugging as a game to see how fast boys could become aroused, Couch said, adding, ‘I was seeing evidence of it.’” full article


In each of those instances, there seems to be another rule being broken, either about tardiness, bullying, etc, but allowing hugs also gives ill-intentioned students and seemingly innocent excuse for such behavior. “I mean, I was just giving him/her a hug.”

Since schools are being judged on performance, they want to avoid any unnecessary distraction to learning. In this instance, Principal Couch believes out-of-control hugging takes a back seat to their educational goals.

Do you think schools should be able to ban hugging or touching if it becomes a problem? Share in the comments section!


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