At Chase Middle School in Forest City, North Carolina, school officials declared hugging during school hours is not permitted. See Education Blog post dated April 18, 2012 regarding hugging issues in a North Carolina middle school.
Apparently, Chase Middle School is not alone in the ban against hugging. In 2010, school officials at West Sylvan Middle School in Portland, Oregon declared that hugging would not be permitted at their school. Principal Allison Couch stated that students would “‘scream, run down the hallway and jump in each other’s arms.’” Principal Couch went on to explain that “Several parents have called because their child is being hugged, and because there is a ‘culture of hugging’ here they didn’t feel that they could say no.”
A charter school in Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn has followed the same path and has banned hugs in the school. Principal Dan Rubinstein explains that he banned hugging in the school to prevent excessive tardiness. Principal Rubinstein explains “‘It’s a time, place, and manner thing…We don’t want students spending too much social time between class.’”
In addition to North Carolina, Oregon, and New York, a middle school in New Jersey has similarly prohibited hugging in their school. Middle School Principal Tyler Blackmore stated that the school is prohibiting hugging because of “incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions.” School Superintendent David Healy announced that the school has the duty to edify students on proper social interaction.
What prompted the prohibitions on hugging? To some extent schools are worrying about the prevalence of inappropriate physical conduct in the classrooms and hallways. What begins as a friendly hug might lead to improper physical contact between students. Ultimately, the schools themselves are responsible for the improper physical contact and they can become the target of numerous claims. Thus, schools are taking a proactive approach in prohibiting hugging so as to eliminate the possibility of improper physical contact. In some instances, schools are giving kids suspension over hugging.
Does barring hugging further positive change in our society or hamper social interaction among children and teens? While banning hugging during school hours serves the purpose of preventing over-the-top displays of affection and the development of fights, it could have a dual negative impact. Declaring a prohibition on hugging could greatly curtail students’ freedom of expression and also hinder social learning.
If your institution has any further questions or concerns about inappropriate physical contact in schools, or education law related matters, please email Cynthia Augello at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (516) 357-3753.
A special thanks to Laura DeLuca, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for help with this post.
 “Out of Control Hugging Leads to ban at Portland’s West Sylvan Middle School,” Allan Brettman,