The very line I meant to start this off with was just expressed aloud. I’ve got Everwood playing in the background, and Dr. Jake just told Edna, “Sometimes a simple hug can break down barriers.”
Which is why, a new school rule at Earnscliffe Senior Public School is so ridiculous. The rule, meant to protect students from bullying and unwanted touching, backfires. The majority of bully is verbal, and though I have no experience in the world of bullying/being bullied, I can only imagine that the one thing (maybe the second thing) a victim wants is a hug.
So, after having been punished for showing affection towards a friend, Janna and her twin sister Hana El-Daly, 12, friends Diana Hoyt, 13, and Lily Hopkinson, 12, organized a hug-in on Wednesday at noon outside the school. More than 40 friends, family, and other supporters turned up for the event, inspired by the sit-ins of many civil rights movements. They danced to the kazoo-and-guitar tunes of Glenn Macfarlane, a local musician who had heard about the event and showed up in solidarity, bringing along a diity he wrote called “I Want a Hug.”
“Hugs are an innocent gesture. They can mean, I’m glad for you or I’m sad for you. Sometimes you just need a hug,’’ Hoyt said.
The girls organized the peaceful protest via a Facebook event page. That alone had consequences. Laila El Dsoki, mother of Janna and Hana, and April Hoyt, Diana’s mother, state that the girls were called into the principal’s office after the Facebook page was created. After a 45 minute conversation there, they were sentto the guidance counselor, where they spent the rest of the day, under orders not to talk to anyone. In short, they were silenced for wanting to show affection.
Carla Pereira, acting communications director for the school board, has a different take on things. She indicates that many parents have told the board they’re in favor of the “no loving, no shoving” rule, and “there’s no plan to revise it.’’ She also states that there is no actual ban on hugging, but “there’s a time and a place for every interaction.’’ For istance, a hug at recess between two consenting children would be fine, she said, but inside the school building, when children are walking in single lines in the hallways, would not be the time for a hug.
I’m sorry? So what you’re saying is that when your students are in the hallways at school, they are always marching in a single-file line? There’s not a moment where they’re just milling about? If a girl comes to school and tells her friends that her dog died, those friends have to wait until recess to comfort her?
Teachers, pay atention. A group a students crowded around one – that’s bullying. Two students sharing a brief hug – that’s not bullying. If your concern is for students touching another innappriately, then instead of being reactionary and just banning human contact, then get proactive and educate on what is and what is not appropriate, as well as create avenues for students to voice worries and complaints if they feel they are being manhandled.