Commentary: No Good Deed goes Unpunished

In Commentary, stupidity on November 7, 2007 by Editor Z

Good thing these guys weren’t going to a Masacoutah school, I mean think of the horrible pain the Principal would be in after he told them they would get detention for a hug.

A 13 year old Illinois student served two after school detentions on Monday and Tuesday. Now why am I writing this? How is this out of the ordinary? Well the offense she committed was not that she swore at a teacher, received a bad grade, or got in a fight. Actually it is for HUGGING a couple of friends. There is apparently a rule in one Illinois town’s school system that prohibits any display of public affection. Here is the first three paragraphs from a story about the incident, that happened Friday, which appeared in the Belleville News Democrat:

MASACOUTAH- Eighth Grader Meghan Coulter said she never thought she could get into trouble for hugging.

The Masacoutah Middle School student said that she couldn’t believe it when Assistant principal Randy Blakley approached her after school Friday with a two day detention sentence for hugging two friends.

“I feel it is crazy,” she said. ” I was just giving them a hug goodbye for the weekend.”

Now to a degree I can understand the concern. With a number of high profile cases of educators engaging in sexual or other inappropriate acts that go beyond the boundaries of a normal student teacher relationship. Also we as a society over the course of the past forty to fifty years have become more open about sex as a society and are trying to find a balance between uptight temperance and discomforting displays of affection in our society.

But this is not happening only in that Illinois town, but last month a similar incident and talk of a similar policy on banning such acts as hand holding and hugging occured in a part of Texas.

Also in recent years in some school districts there has been talk of banning the game of tag on school playgrounds because it encourages bullying. Now I am all for cutting down on bullying and alienation between school students ( I have certainly been a victim of such conduct), but in this case, and especially in the “hug ban” the cure may be worse then the disease.

We now live in a society and a time, when due to such things as advances in technology, longer and more arduous work hours, and increased social isolation that we are becoming a less unified, more apathetic, and more self-centered society. That in turn makes for a less productive and less vibrant society. The ban on small and Innocent public displays of affection especially amongst children reinforces that and inculcates in children that showing people that you care about them is taboo and even worthy of punishment.

If we want to improve society we can’t penalize each other for expressing or showing innocent (and non-sexual) signs of affection, if we do that we risk becoming a society that doesn’t encourage love of one another but indifference towards or mere coexistence with one another.

Meghan says she hopes that the school officals will take another look at the rule.


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