One school in Geelong, Australia is no longer allowing hugs to occur on campus and has asked students to find other ways to show affection toward each other, such as high-fiving or clunking knuckles.
John Grant, the principle at St. Patricks Primary School, said “nothing in particular” caused the ban.
“But in this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious,” he added.
Grant said that he discussed the decision with the teachers at the school, who then talked about it with their individual classes within the school. While children have already been instructed to show affection to one another in other ways, Grant said that parents had not yet been informed. He does intend to send a letter home on Monday.
“We have a lot of kids who walk up and hug each other and we’re trying to encourage all of us to respect personal space. It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged. ”
Grant went on to say that there are a variety of ways to show affection to other students that do not involve hugging. As examples, he listed high fives, clunking knuckles, or a verbal acknowledgement such as “well done.”
He also said students at the school have always been “enthusiastic huggers,” hugging both teachers and other students.
Although parents have not been officially informed, some have heard of the decision through their children, which has generated some criticism. One parent who did not want to be named told Jyotirupa Sarma for Australia Network News that he had actually laughed when he heard the news. He said he had done some studying in the area of psychology and that touch is a basic human need. “A Catholic school in Melbourne tore out pages of textbooks and now another Catholic school is banning hugging,” the parent went on to say.
The father did say he was sure there was a reason for the ban, giving the example of a few years ago when the school banned students from performing cartwheels. He said that was done after several students were injured on the playground.
One student told Margaret Linley for The Herald Sun that they could not hug teachers or other students, but they were still allowed to hug their mothers.
The principal has since said that his initial statement had been misunderstood and that there is not actually a ban on hugging at the school. He added that the school was merely focusing on teaching students to respect personal space, both their own and that of other students. Students are being encouraged to look to other forms of positive acknowledgement, saying that all students have the right to feel safe and comfortable while at school.
Grant went on to say that punishments would not be handed out if students were caught hugging.
While some schools are tightening rules, others are becoming more lenient. A few months ago a French school created controversy when they began to allow students to smoke on school grounds.