A middle school becomes a “no hugging” zone. Necessary ban or overreaction?

To the news that a New Jersey middle school officially banned hugging, I have one immediate response: Why are kids hugging each other in middle school in the first place?

(Of course, I attended a Catholic school where we would have been ducking rulers if the good Sisters had caught any one of us hugging. )

Such a rule might limit teachers giving students in hugs but I’m not sure there’s much of that anymore in the current environment.

I have seen teachers embrace students coming back to school after a death in the family, and I would assume that gestures of consolation would still be allowed. I also suspect that students who hug a classmate in the same circumstances will not be tripped up by this new rule.

My older daughter always talked about the strict PDA ban in her private high school — no public displays of affection — but the rule applied largely to couples who were dating.

I haven’t seen much girl/boy romantic hugging in our local middle school. What I see are girls rushing up to greet each other in the morning with exaggerated hugging — as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. I always thought the scenes were simply delay tactics in the morning to avoid going to homeroom.

From the AJC:

The district says Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School Principal Tyler Blackmore made an announcement that students were in a “no hugging school” following some “incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions.”

School Superintendent David Healy says the district has the responsibility to teach children about appropriate interactions. The superintendent says despite the rule, students who hug will not be suspended.

The superintendent says he believes the principal acted responsibly.

Students range in ages from 11 to 14 in grades six to eight.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

51 comments Add your comment


March 23rd, 2012
9:06 am

I think appropriate PDA is ok in a the school setting however; I’m sure the principal of that school knows the culture of that school and wanted to send a message to those student who crossed over the line.

Biker Chick

March 23rd, 2012
9:11 am

My stepson’s middle and high schools in South Carolina already have a “no hugging” policy. I would imagine other schools do as well. As our children are being exposed to more and more sexual imagery at an earlier age, they are becoming sexualized even before middle school. My stepdaughter talked non-stop about who was dating who by the time she was in the fifth grade. Of course parents may or may not take it seriously, but the kids do. The drama revolving around “dating”, “breakups” and “cheating” was a daily occurrence in grade school. By the time they reach middle school, they are moving on to physical displays of affection and even sex.

The “no hugging” policy probably makes it easier for school administrators and teachers to make sure the kids keep their hands off of each other at least during school hours.


March 23rd, 2012
9:11 am

overreaction is the new normal, so when it is time for us to actually respond, we are docile.

Misty Fyed

March 23rd, 2012
9:15 am

When your too lazy to do your job; ban everything. That way you don’t actually of make any decisions.

You know it’s hard to be a “friend of the cause” when educators pull stuff like this. Using this logic, the police department should ban driving to avoid having to confront speeders.


March 23rd, 2012
9:17 am

I agree one hundred percent .When people who work in the schools start making the rules then schools will improve.

Misty Fyed

March 23rd, 2012
9:18 am

“When your too lazy to do your job; ban everything. That way you don’t actually of make any decisions.” should read..

When you’re too lazy to do your job: ban everything. That way you don’t actually have to make any decisions.

No coffee this morning.


March 23rd, 2012
9:19 am

I understand the INTENT; however, it’s totally overreaction. What’s next? Can’t look at one another? We are already a society of overreactors (notice the spelling) and not of common sense.

no name

March 23rd, 2012
9:24 am

When I was in middle school, students played a game to see who could get the most hugs in a day. It became a distraction and teachers wouldn’t allow students to hug in their particular classes for a while.


March 23rd, 2012
9:34 am

For some students, it may be the only hug they get all day. Maybe there’s no hug waiting at home.


March 23rd, 2012
9:39 am

Same rules at my daughter’s private school, no PDA.


March 23rd, 2012
9:39 am

I say ban away PDAs in middle school because by the time they get to high school they are groping and swapping spit in the hallways. I hate to say it but I have had colleagues who got in serious trouble for merely touching students and I don’t mean inappropriately either. I coached a girls’ varsity team for many years and would never let myself get caught up in hugging win, lose or draw. This is what we have come to in our litigous society.


March 23rd, 2012
9:44 am

This is funny though. One of my sisters, who has a 14 y/o daughter as I do, and I were having a discussion last year about why the heck these children were hugging each other every morning like why they had not seen each other in years. We didn’t do stuff like that growing up, and to us it is just foreign and strange. These younger generations are just too “touchy feely” for us.


March 23rd, 2012
9:54 am

Not all hugs are equal. There are long, extended, touchy-feely hugs between couples (of whatever persuasion). And then there are companionly side-to-side hugs. And my favorite: approaching-with-extended-arms haven’t-seen-you-in-ages very public hugs between long and deadly rivals. So, it would seem to me that any attempt to legislate this veritable language of hugs is a fool’s game.


March 23rd, 2012
9:56 am

It’s funny that people think that everything is a over reaction. Again I’m sure that it was series of things happening to make the administration decide on this. I’m sure it wasn’t targeted to those who were not showing innappropriate PDA. But you cant put rule in place for some and not everyone else. I’m glad to see that some schools are still run by the adminstration/staff and not parents and students.

Mom of a Student

March 23rd, 2012
10:02 am

This is crazy!!! You can tell this is not in the SOUTH where people hug all the time!! What’s next!!! Maybe if teachers would learn to do their jobs this would not happen!! I am a teacher and at our school we are required to stand in the halls between classes and watch for inappropriate behavior. Some children get no hugs at all at home and need an appropriate hug at school. Most school officials need to get out of the office and in the halls!!!!!


March 23rd, 2012
10:18 am

Back when I was in middle-school (a loooong time ago), we also had a no-hugging/no-hand-holding/no-PDA rule for members of the opposite sex. I’m not sure why this is a new thing – it’s been around for years.


March 23rd, 2012
10:23 am

From the first grade to the twelfth, hugging was never even mentioned in any school I attended. That it is now a problem indicates a serious change in the sociology of our schools. I suspect this “no hugging” policy is only a symptom of much more serious problems.


March 23rd, 2012
10:39 am

Overreaction. If the principal instituted this policy in response to some inappropriate behavior, it should be identified and specifically pointed out in a teaching moment: ‘ Here is where innocent, supportive hugging becomes unwanted’. Just banning all touching is not helpful in teaching kids appropriate vs. inappropriate public behavior (and yes, certainly, this learning should begin at home) and is indeed a lazy administrative response.

Middle school is emotionally rough – hugs are sometimes what gets a kid through the day.

I hug my friends every day.

March 23rd, 2012
10:52 am

I hug my friends everyday. We meet for lunch and I hug them goodbye and kiss them on the cheek. I hug and kiss my kids at least 20 times a day. My kids hug their friends.
I grew up without any hugs. When I grew up I made a decision not to be like my parents and I am.
Here are some OOOOO for all of you.

Happy Kine and The Mirth Makers

March 23rd, 2012
10:55 am

Necessary or Overreation? Neither. I just stupidty by a group of pseudo eggheads with nothing better to do.

Apparently this school is overstaffed and some pink slips need to be come forth.

johnny too good

March 23rd, 2012
11:01 am

If you have never worked in a middle school or high school you wouldnt understand this. This rule is acceptable becuase the seemingly harmless PDA becomes a huge distraction, small hugs eventually turn into make out sessions, and 9 months later you get a new addition lol
seriously though, PDA does get outta hand with teenagers, holding hands and hugging in between every period, cuddling during lunch, long deep kissing before and after school and in between classes, where do we draw the line?
I understand the school’s intention


March 23rd, 2012
11:01 am

What a ridiculous rule. I went to school (in England) and we would all hug each other hello and goodbye every single day. I still hug my friends, why shouldn’t my kids? I have also lived in France where every kid in a class hugs and kisses the teacher goodbye at the end of each school day. This is another example of wierd American Puritanism and administrative staff with too much time on their hands.


March 23rd, 2012
11:13 am

@ Maureen & Cammi, those first thing in the morning hugs are just the beginning. They meet in the halls between classes and hug because they haven’t seen each other in over an hour. A couple of months ago, I had to get on to a girl because she ran at and practically knocked a boy down in her effort to hug him. As it turns out, the boy is her brother, and I’ve been told that she is quite touchy-feely with him. Then a few weeks ago, another teacher and I caught a 7th grade girl and an 8th grade boy in a full on kiss and hug, complete with hand movement and a little grinding. Quite repulsive, especially at 7:00 a.m. Despite all this, I think it’s a shame that the principal has had to ban hugging at school.

On another note, once again, my system’s technology department has blocked Maureen’s article on the lawsuit by the student council president because it has the word “gay” in it.


March 23rd, 2012
11:26 am

When common sense ceases to be a part of the equation, decisions like this result. There are different types of hugs, just like there are different types of touches. To the Admin: Use your freakin’ head ( if you can pull it out of your posterior section).

Lastly, no matter what, I do not want GM to hug me…even virtually. She scares me.


March 23rd, 2012
11:35 am

In the late 60s it was called the “daylight rule.” Teachers had to be able to see daylight between couples all the way, floor to ceiling.


March 23rd, 2012
11:36 am

Schools today: Don’t grade in red, pass everyone, can’t hug & homework assignments include finding faults with the GOP so that the “hero” of teachers – obozo can get re-elected.


March 23rd, 2012
11:42 am

Minnesota high school prevents student from being porn star to prom.

Schools teaching “morals” to our kids – pathetic!

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
11:43 am

@MIlton: Huh?


March 23rd, 2012
11:46 am

I guess it’s back to drugs not hugs.


March 23rd, 2012
12:00 pm

I felt that there was a good policy regarding PDA’s at my old high school: people could hold hands and hug casually, if they didn’t do it really obviously. Kissing and making out were prohibited. I think that what schools need is an intelligent rule that allows appropriate interactions, while preventing inappropriate displays of affection.

Greg Kaiser

March 23rd, 2012
12:18 pm

Why is it that when we hear a story about some rule instituted at some school that people who have no knowlege of the actual situation at hand think is strange, we get comment after comment like “those administrators must have too much time on their hands!” But when there is a problem that results in injury or harm to a student, seemingly the same people pull their hair out and scream, “where was the administration charged with protecting these children?!”


March 23rd, 2012
1:26 pm

I think this is absolutely ridiculous!!! Hugging is a sense of happiness and affection! Discipline the students who are physically misbehaving, taking away the rights of a child to hug one another is like taking away a part of that child. Some children are absolutely so affectionate in a non sexual way bc they are extremely happy and loving people, and you know some other people in the world need that affection shown to them also!

unionize now

March 23rd, 2012
2:07 pm

I agree with the first poster. To send a messege to those crossing the fine. Would be interested on the enforcement? (like we dont have enough to do)


March 23rd, 2012
2:54 pm

They already have in some factories and plants a 3 second rule…you can not look at aperson for more than 3 seconds unles engaged in conversation. but anything over 3 secodns is considered staring and borders sexual harrassment….


March 23rd, 2012
2:55 pm

why not just say if you hug for more than 3 seconds you are in violation of excessive PDA…case closed…

Just A Teacher

March 23rd, 2012
3:04 pm

What an insane policy! I teach theatre and have to deal with young actors who are so stressed about interaction with other people that a simple hug meant to show affection between characters sometimes becomes uncomfortable. What is happening to our society? I’m not saying that kids should be making out in our public schools, but when did it become inappropriate for human beings to show friendship and affection for one another in a polite and tasteful manner? Personally, I’m in favor of hugging and think that the world would be a much better place if there was more of it between people. Maybe it’s all this new technology with virtual hugs, kisses, and pokes for people with whom you might never actually have physical contact. I don’t know, but I miss the old days when intimacy between friends was considered normal. Any fool can tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching! Sounds like some administrators need to get their heads out of a body part that would be inappropriate for people to touch!


March 23rd, 2012
3:34 pm

I remember a similar policy being announced at my (private) school when I was in either 6th or 8th grade. My English teacher read the exact wording of the policy, then boiled it down to a great paraphrase: “No smooching on campus!” I soon noticed that more low-key PDAs didn’t get anyone in trouble. Maybe because the administration had some common sense?

Just A Teacher

March 23rd, 2012
4:19 pm

I’d like to weigh in a bit more about this. As you can tell by the name under which I post, I am a teacher. It is a job that requires that I care about people. I sometimes show people that I care by hugging them in a friendly, but appropriate, fashion. It boggles my mind that anyone would consider this behavior to be wrong. I am not an automaton; I am a person, just like the kids that I teach, and I don’t see anything wrong with them learning to show appropriate affection for one another.

I’m sorry to say this, but I think we are living in a very strange society. Many people think it is OK to be rude, insulting, or down right mean to others, but being polite, courteous or kind is considered bizarre.

Imagine that a 13 year old child in that school has just received some devastating news (perhaps the death of a loved one). Under this policy, no one in the school would be able to throw their arms around the kid and comfort them. There was a recent school shooting in Ohio. Do these administrators mean to imply that it would be wrong to console the friends of the victims who watched them die? People need to think before they put these procedures in place.

Schools are places where human beings interact and learn important social lessons. Teaching children that appropriate displays of affection are wrong limits their ability to become caring, compassionate adults. Kids need affection as much as they need discipline. If you want a no hugging zone, try your local police department, not your local school.

Hey Teacher

March 23rd, 2012
9:30 pm

Maureen is on the money about the delay tactics — the rules against public display may be an attempt to get the kids to go to CLASS and stop talking/hugging/hanging out with their friends. Kids are smart — next year they may not be hugging but instead be pretending to do homework :)


March 23rd, 2012
10:10 pm

knee jerk knee jerk knee jerk knee jerk


March 23rd, 2012
10:29 pm

Have to admit that I can see both sides of the issue…While teaching 8th graders in inner-city Baltimore, on the 1st day of spring several years ago, I had a new student. We were waiting for a new desk (even a chair) for her to use. She was leaning against the bookcase on the far wall when a male student from another class walked by, took a double take, stalked in and proceeded to try to hump her. Obviously, I intervened immediately and he was written up, but boy was that a weird one. Spring had sprung, indeed.

bootney farnsworth

March 23rd, 2012
11:42 pm

stupid, stupid, stupid overreaction.
typical, but stupid

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

March 24th, 2012
6:54 am

Effete, self-serving school board attorneys have promoted the misconception that school should be a “no touch zone.”

Such a misconception is at the expense of our kids’ emotional development and of us taxpayers’ bank accounts.

Doris M.

March 24th, 2012
7:55 am

Overreaction!! But isn’t that what always happens in the field of education!

Fine Line

March 24th, 2012
11:27 am

I’m in agreement with the posters who said that people not in these schools can’t say for sure if this was needed or not. It may seem a “knee jerk” reaction, but maybe this school was having real problems, and banning hugging was an extreme, but effective way to solve them. I’d like to hear from teachers and students in that school before I judge.

I can see both sides – one: a hug SHOULD be a nice gesture – an innocent display of normal human comfort and affection…it shouldn’t have to be banned or regulated…


Two: people, kids and teachers, can take things too far. Obviously, we’ve all seen the news reports of teachers being inappropriate – no need to go any further there. But kids can get ridiculous with it, too – and I’m not just saying inappropriate, but also using it as an excuse to do whatever it is they are supposed to be doing – getting to class, getting on the bus, getting their work done – whatever.

Overreaction doesn’t just occur in education – anyone take a flight lately? Try to vote? Cash a check? Make an online purchase? All it takes is the idiocy of a few to ruin it for everyone else.

Proud Educator

March 24th, 2012
1:15 pm

I am always amazed at the comments posted. We hear so much from people who have no clue about how much schools have changed. Attending schools or having children currently enrolled does not qualify as an expert. Our profession is the only one where the general public feels that they can do a much better job. If I’ve used a computer for 15 years that doesn’t mean I can build a computer or write programs. If I’ve had a few surgeries or operations, I still can’t perform the same procedure. We have to stop expecting schools to solve societies problems. Think about how much social media, poverty, unemployment, and reality tv have affected how adults interact with eah other and even affected their work place policies. Wouldn’t we expect to see the same issues replicated in schools? Schools are a microcosm of society. That’s the bottom line. In addition to trying to solve the world’s problems through schools educators also have to ensure that schools are not failing, all while they meet the expectations (or lack thereof) for every parent of every child that they teach. I applaud administrators and educators who understand that they must provide a safe learning environment at all times.


March 25th, 2012
8:21 pm

Wow… someone trying to outlaw crying or hugging at my daughter’s performing arts magnet high school would be about the only thing I can imagine that could possibly cause a riot. It’s 80% girls, ranked extremely high for % taking AP classes, and my daughter usually has to hug at least 3 people on the way to jump into the car at the end of the day.

The other half of the building is an “annex” made of AYP transfer students…and the other morning my daughter saw one of her best friends from elementary school that goes to the annex as she jumped out of the car….hug time..

The “powers that be” would perhaps prefer the real riot that happened last year between the annex kids and resident kids at another campus? At least this is one idiocy that has not come to Dekalb yet.

Cobb History Teacher

March 26th, 2012
10:32 pm

Those who scoff at the hugging ban come watch the halls of your average middle school and tell me if you think it will help the students academic success? At the same time don’t blame teachers for your child’s failures when 10 – 15 minutes of time is wasted in each class as we wait for the “huggers” to come in from the hallway. The problem here is people want the best of both worlds they want their kids to do what they please (so they are out of their hair) and they want their kids to get the best education. You can’t get both if you let your kids do just what they want because with the exception of a few most don’t want to learn they want to hang out and socialize and yes this includes hugging in the hallways.

The Carnivore

March 27th, 2012
11:51 am

Make hugging mandatory. Many of the problems in today’s school will disappear.

sam lee

March 27th, 2012
12:04 pm

As a high school teacher, I would love to see PDA not only banned, but enforced. PDA is a simple hug or an exuberant greeting. Use your imagination. Groping, gyrating behavior is the norm, not the exception. Parents think we exaggerate and defend their darlings, however, they never see what we see. And then there is the prom-dirty dancing looks clean!