I love hugs. I mean, who doesn’t? Okay, I know a few people who don’t like to be touched, but I give such good hugs they take one from me as an exception. For me, every day might as well be National Hug Day, because I give and get hugs all day long. Not so for many young people across the country, as schools increasingly ban all forms of touch between students beyond handshakes.
Fortunately, my daughter has attended pre-schools that have not only allowed but encouraged hugging amongst classmates, though only with permission. At the school my daughter attended last year, there was even an assigned “hugger” each day who would embrace anyone in the class who wanted a hug after circle time. When I pick her up at her new school at the end of the day, I love to hear little voices saying, “Can I have a hug?” It’s so sweet. Watching 4- and 5-year-olds wrap their arms around each other is a delight, but apparently things change – for teachers and administrators, anyway – as kids enter the higher grades.
The New York Times reported last March about how “hugging is hip” with teens across the country, but they noted that, “Comforting as the hug may be, principals across the country have clamped down…. Schools that have limited hugging invoked longstanding rules against public displays of affection, meant to maintain an atmosphere of academic seriousness and prevent unwanted touching, or even groping.” They added, “But pro-hugging students say it is not a romantic or sexual gesture, simply the ‘hello’ of their generation.”
With that in mind, a student at an unidentified school in New England created a petition against the administration’s policy declaring there should be “no physical contact at any time” between students. She shared her brilliantly-worded, pro-hugging argument with Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids, where it got picked up by several other blogs and sites including BoingBoing. Unfortunately, the student in question decided to suspend the dissemination of her petition due to the suicide of a fellow student at her school. Sadly, what her classmates likely need most now is some affection from their peers. I hope the administration will review their policy accordingly and realize that everyone – especially vulnerable teens – needs a hug once in a while.