For someone who has been out of high school long enough to be past the 10-year reunion bump (and over the fact that I didn't want to go), I do an awful lot of thinking about bullying. Such is the life of a parent and parenting blogger both. But I think I'm finally starting to see a pattern.
You know what's come to light at the exact same moment that bullying has wormed its way into the national zeitgeist? The war on PDA in our schools. Kindergartners are getting kicked out for kissing. And now Nick Crescente, an honor roll student in Central Florida, has been suspended from high school for daring to reach his arms out and wrap a friend in a hug.
Suspended. For a hug. A hug that was not unwelcome or inappropriate. Just two arms around a buddy.
No wonder kids are so good at making each other feel like crap. They're not allowed to do the opposite!
Crescente's mom says the rules at his school are too general, and he shouldn't be suspended. But I wonder why the rules against hugging exist at all ... in any school.
As simple a gesture as it may be, a hug can go a long way toward making someone feel less alone, especially in the awkward teen years when a kid can't even recognize their own body, forget their self-esteem. But the hug has been caught up in this puritanical fear that any form of physical contact will immediately send these hormonal teenagers scurrying for the closest janitor's closet to get freak nasty. As a mother of a daughter, I'm all for preventing teen pregnancy.
But I'm not buying the whole "hug as gateway drug" spiel. I was a hugger in high school, exactly for the reason stated above -- I felt like crap about myself, and getting some arm action always made me feel better. I managed to keep my pants on quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.
The irony in all this is if you look at the root of bullying, many of the kids who lash out aren't evil at the core. They're miserable teenagers who see no way out, so they make do by making somebody else feel worse than they do. It's a circle, and one that could be broken if school administrators would set aside their fear of teens' emotions getting the best of them and treat kids like the fragile, developing creatures they are.
A boy who gives a girl a hug doesn't deserve to be suspended for it. He deserves a slap on the back for showing a little kindness in one of the last places any of us remember finding it.
Do you think hugging bans have a place in high school? Is this a suspension-worthy incident?
Image via Aunt Owwee/Flickr