In June, Kilmer Middle School reprimanded 13-year-old Hal Beaulieu. The offense: hugging his girlfriend. The Virginia public school’s rules include an unqualified “no physical contact” policy.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Principal Deborah Hernandez justifies the policy by saying her overcrowded school needs order and she’d rather not get “into shades of gray” when trying to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate touching. She also argues that touching could lead to violence or even signify gang membership. “You have to have an absolute rule with students, and wiggle room and good judgment on behalf of the staff,” she explains.
Many schools have zero tolerance for emergency asthma inhalers, plastic cutlery, and squirt guns, but Kilmer may be alone in banning hugs. As a repeat offender, having been cited in the same episode for leaving his lunch table without permission, Beaulieu faces detention or in-school suspension if he violates another rule.