Friday, June 22, 2007

These People Have Lost "Touch" with Reality

Here's another story of administrative idiocy--one that makes me think that the "let's do away with public schools" idea from yesterday's post isn't half bad: A school in Virginia has instituted a policy that prohibits physical contact of any kind between students. That's not just hugging, but also hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives:
Fairfax County middle school student Hal Beaulieu hopped up from his lunch table one day a few months ago, sat next to his girlfriend and slipped his arm around her shoulder. That landed him a trip to the school office.

Among his crimes: hugging.

All touching -- not only fighting or inappropriate touching -- is against the rules at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna.

[...]School officials say the rule helps keep crowded hallways and lunchrooms safe and orderly, and ensures that all students are comfortable. But Hal, 13, and his parents think the school's hands-off approach goes too far, and they are lobbying for a change.

[...]Hal's parents, Donna and Henri, say that they think Kilmer is a good school and that their son is thriving there. He earns A's and B's and, before this incident, hadn't gotten in any trouble. Still, they say they encourage hugging at home and have taught him to shake hands when he meets someone. They agree that teenagers need to have clear limits but don't want their son to get the message that physical contact is bad.

"How do kids learn what's right and what's wrong?" Henri Beaulieu asked. "They are all smart kids, and they can draw lines. If they cross them, they can get in trouble. But I don't think it would happen too often." Beaulieu has written a letter to the county School Board asking it to review the rule.
Read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Dr. Helen.)

Some of the commenters have compared this situation to that of Antioch College, which became notorious in the '90s for its "Sexual Offense Prevention Policy," which required students to ask permission to have any sort of "sexual" contact, including holding hands (a Saturday Night Live sketch poked fun at this policy). And it's interesting to note that Antioch has run out of money and is about to close its doors.

I can't add much more to the discussion here; most readers already know that I have zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" and all that. I just wish these administrators would realize that their actions are having the opposite effect of what they're probably hoping will happen; by doing this, they're causing students to take them less seriously, not to mention engendering disrespect for the rule of law.

(Read all the comments at Dr. Helen's post; some readers seem to think that, on occasion, private schools aren't exactly all that and a bag of chips either.)

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