One school’s hands-off policy is a joke

Jackie Valley

I must have done something right today.

While baby-sitting, I received a high-five after finding one of the kids in a particularly good hiding spot during an intense round of hide-and-seek, and later, a leg hug as I prepared to leave.

The ages of these kids who have mastered the art of physical displays of emotion? 7 and 3, respectively.

Yet at Kilmer Middle School in Fairfax County, Va., children twice and three times their age are prohibited from engaging in outward displays of G-rated emotion as part of the school’s “no touch” policy. That means no hugs, handshakes, high-fives or hand-holding.

According to The Washington Post, the school’s principal, Deborah Hernandez, said the policy reflects two problems at the middle school: overcrowding in a school that was meant for 850 students but houses 1,100 and a lack of maturity on behalf of the students to understand what kind of touching is appropriate.

“You get into shades of gray,” Hernandez told The Post. “The kids say, ‘If I can high-five, then I can do this.'”

But after 13-year-old Hal Beaulieu wound up in the school office after giving his girlfriend a hug, his parents, Donna and Henri, are asking the school to re-examine its hands-off policy

Gee, I wonder why?

In an age of horrific school massacres, a simple hug hardly seems an act to frown upon, much less a punishable offense.

School officials claim it’s an invasion of personal space in a school already packed to the gills. This may come as a shock, but I was always under the impression it took two people to hug, shake hands, high-five and hold hands – two people to simultaneously outwardly express their joy, respect or love.

Still, officials argue these seemingly innocent gestures can lead to more potent forms of expression – a nasty poke opposed to a high-five or a secret handshake promoting gang violence.

It seems like the administrators are operating on a weak argument – a case of the Bear Hug Gone Bad – rather than taking a proactive approach to combat any of the possible ‘problems’ associated with these gestures.

Thirteen- and 14-year-olds are smart enough to jump to plan B if their malicious intents are inhibited by the “no touch” policy. Nasty rumors can be just as damaging as a poke or push, and clothing can be used just as effectively as a secret handshake. Even Hollywood knows that. Lindsay Lohan’s 2004 comedy Mean Girls epitomized the clever, vicious tactics employed by teenagers to create discord in the school environment.

Most importantly, however, the school’s policy directed at eliminating potentially unwanted behavior due to a lack of maturity does the exact opposite of a school’s objection: teaching.

As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

Actions need consequences. Simply banning all touching undermines school officials’ attempts to instill the proper code of conduct in the impressionable teenagers.

The school’s “no touch” policy reflects a hands-off approach on behalf of the faculty – one in which social and academic teaching suffers.

An addition should be made to Kilmer Middle School’s list of evils: “No common sense.”

Jackie Valley is a sophomore journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].