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Sorry, this school is in a no hugging zone

Some think Pinetree Elementary going too far

Posted: May 26, 2008 1:28 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.
If you ace your sixth grade math test at Pinetree Elementary School, you probably shouldn't celebrate by giving your best friend a big hug.

The vote's not in yet on whether a high-five would be appropriate.

While hugging isn't banned at the Canyon Country school, it is not encouraged or condoned for students in fourth through sixth grade, according to Principal Kim Lytle.

"No, we don't want people hugging," Lytle said. "I wouldn't say that hugging is banned, but we don't recommend that students hug, and children are taught to keep their hands to themselves for safety reasons."

K.C. Kelley said that her daughter, a sixth grader at Pinetree, was punished for hugging and "lost three points." Sixth graders at Pinetree are on a point system, and any time they miss an assignment or get reprimanded, they get points deducted. The students start out with 80 points, and must still have 12 at the end of the year in order to graduate.

"I told my daughter to just keep hugging whoever she wants, and if she gets down to 12 points to let me know," Kelley said. "Elementary school-aged kids hug all the time - it's their nature."

After Kelley's daughter was reprimanded, Kelley contacted Pinetree Assistant Principal Bev Farrell-Smith, the administrator that Kelley's daughter said had deducted the points.

"(Farrell-Smith) talked to me for a long time and she said there could be no high-fiving, hand-holding or any physical contact," Kelley said.

"My daughter said they can't even play patty-cake any more."

Lytle could not confirm whether Farrell-Smith had indeed punished a student for hugging, and Farrell-Smith did not return repeated calls for comment. Lytle also refused to answer questions about the appropriateness of high-fives or hand-holding, and would only say that the school does not encourage students in fourth through sixth grades to hug, because "that's when sexual harassment comes into play."

"We don't have a hugging police here on campus, but if we do see people arm in arm, we tell them they need to walk away," Lytle said.

"We come here to learn."

Kelley said she thinks punishing someone for giving a hug is "crazy."

"I think it might be involuntary for a lot of kids - kids are just huggy," she said. "(Administrators) are getting Nazi on them."

Linda Dann said her daughter, a sixth grader at Valley View Elementary, also got in trouble for hugging some friends, but she wasn't punished. Her daughter was simply told not to do it any more, Dann said.

"My daughter said the teacher told her she didn't want them to set a bad example for the younger kids," Dann said. "I told (my daughter) to hug her girlfriends whenever she wants - they're 12-year-old tweens, they hug."

Valley View Principal Rick Drew was not aware of Dann's situation, but said that hugging is definitely allowed at Valley View.

"People are welcomed to give friendly hugs. I think it would only be a problem if the hug were unwanted," Drew said. "Students just need to respect one another's personal space."

Drew called any story about kids not being able to give one another a quick, friendly hug at Valley View "absurd." Any parent who has questions about hugging, or any other school rules, is welcome to contact him, he said.

Since being told not to hug, Dann's daughter has continued hugging at school without incident, she said.

"I'm glad I have not had to go into the office and waste someone's time discussing a no-hugging rule," Dann said.

Both Pinetree and Valley View are part of the Sulphur Springs School District. Superintendent Robert Nolet said he hadn't received any calls at the district office regarding hugging, but that generally children are told to keep their hands to themselves.

"Our policy is to make sure that kids learn, and the circumstances would dictate whether children would be told not to touch each other," Nolet said. Each situation would be handled differently, he said.

Meanwhile, Kelley said her daughter asked if she could get a special T-shirt made to wear to school.

"Hugs: 3 points," it would read.


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