Who's Up for a Game of Point Football?

The Washington Post describes a Virginia public school's no-touching policy:

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. Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned. The rule has been conveyed to students this way: "NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!!!"

Then there's this sentence, which has an irresistible Dragnet-meets-1984 quality:

A school security officer spotted the hug and sent Hal to the office, where he was cited for two infractions.

Snitching: my anti-hug.

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  • uncle sam||

    No comment is really necessary on this.

    Homeschooling dad.

  • ||

    What doesn't remind you guys of 1984?

  • ||

    We just moved to Vienna. I'm trying to convince Mrs. Damar that I need to stay home and edumacate the little ones (once we have them.) This story is worth its weight in latinum.

  • ||

    Dan,

    Avacados
    Bacon
    Lawn darts
    Sunsets
    Most kinds of footwear

    Everything else reminds us of 1984. Every single monolithic one of us.

  • robc||

    Speaking of lawn darts, Im willing to bet that this school wouldnt allow a game of full contact jarts.

  • ||

    In related news, the school counselor was replaced by a blob of chickenwire covered in cheap carpet.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Fair Warning reminds me of 1984, that and Diver Down

  • ||

    Jump Back!

  • ||

    This is not the stupidest "Zero Tolerance" thing I've ever heard. But it is definately in the top ten. Will the originator of this asinine policy be reprimanded, disciplined or possily fired? No way. Good intentions, not rational decision making, are all that's reequired in a public school official. Competence be damned.

  • ||

    When I was in Jr High, my friends and I invented a game that was eerily similar to team handball (which we did not know existed at the time.) We basically took basketball, rugby, and soccer, and shook really hard. That game would not be allowed at Kilmer. And that saddens me in a way that only a soccerball hurled to the face can explain.

  • Jennifer||

    Let's hammer every last bit of humanity out of the kids, shall we? If you see your best friend crying, don't give her a reassuring hug. That's not what proper public-educated humans do.

  • ||

    Legate Damar,
    How can the forbidden lawn darts fail to remind you of 1984?

    Bacon, and some footwear are also suspect. As is the sun setting on our freedom. You're right about Avocados though. There's dystopic about guacamole.

  • ||

    There's nothing dystopic about guacamole.

    [Damnit, that ruined the whole punchline]

  • ||

    This is not the stupidest "Zero Tolerance" thing I've ever heard. But it is definately in the top ten. Will the originator of this asinine policy be reprimanded, disciplined or possily fired? No way. Good intentions, not rational decision making, are all that's reequired in a public school official. Competence be damned.

    Since of course you know better how to run the school than the people who actually do it.

  • ||

    But if they let kids touch each other sometimes, then they have to figure out where to draw the line between what kinds of touching are okay and what kinds aren't. That would be an administrative nightmare! The manual for deciding what touching is appropriate in given situations would be 500 pages minimum.

    No way. Stick with the easy "no touching" policy.

  • Jennifer||

    I look forward to the inevitable story of a kid who performs the Heimlich on a choking classmate and then gets expelled for violating the no-touching policy.

  • ||

    Regrettably, I would not have violated the "no touching" rule until post-secondary school.

    And even then it took 3 gin and tonics.

  • ||

    Since of course you know better how to run the school than the people who actually do it.

    Dan T: So in your land of credentialism, only those who are incompetent can actually judge what is incompetent? Isn;t there something about orders of ignorance at work here?

  • ||

    I look forward to the inevitable story of a kid who performs the Heimlich on a choking classmate and then gets expelled for violating the no-touching policy.

    Jennifer, didn't we have something similar with an asthma inhaler a while back?

    Talking to myself - "Don't feed the trolls, don't feed the trolls..."

  • Jennifer||

    Jennifer, didn't we have something similar with an asthma inhaler a while back?

    Yup. IIRC, a boyfriend/girlfriend pair with the exact same prescription; girlfriend had an asthma attack without her inhaler, boyfriend let her borrow his, both kids kicked out.

    An important lesson for the young'uns: if you see another human being dying before your eyes, don't do anything to help.

  • Dog\'s New Clothes||

    "In related news, the school counselor was replaced by a blob of chickenwire covered in cheap carpet."

    de stijl,
    I believe that is the first Harry Harlow reference on HnR. Here's hoping these kids don't end up as deranged as those monkeys.

  • ||

    Why haven't these kids organized a hug-in or something?

    Me, I'd make it a point to touch somebody each & every day, just with the tiniest tip of my pinky finger.

  • ||

    Deeply, profoundly creepy. Makes me wish I were still in school, at that school, so I could arrange to get expelled for touching.

    Oh! Dan T.: "Since of course you know better how to run the school than the people who actually do it."

    I assure you that for at least three quarters of all public schools in the country, my answer is 'Yes; yes I do.' I have yet to meet someone with an education degree who was smarter than a box of hammers.

  • ||

    I hope they don't have any cases of spontaneous human combustion at that school.

    Dan T., those are the lamest troll attempts I've seen from you. Try harder.

  • ||

    Since of course you know better how to run the school than the people who actually do it.

    Obviously, yes.

  • ||

    I bet they still let football players pat each other's asses or put arms around each other in the huddle.

  • ||

    Dan T: So in your land of credentialism, only those who are incompetent can actually judge what is incompetent? Isn;t there something about orders of ignorance at work here?

    The point is that, if you read the article, the principal of the school gives some pretty good reasons for the policy, including severe overcrowding.

    Also, it should be noted, that "touching" is not exactly considered a major offense there - nobody is getting kicked out or sent to the gulag for a high-five.

  • Dan T-roll||

    Feeeed meeeeeeeeee!

  • stuartl||

    I posted this on the now missing parallel thread, I apologize if it ends up as a double post:

    FWIW, my kids went to Kilmer, there are some interesting demographics. About 10% of the school is ESL, 10% mild to severely retarded, 30% gifted and talented from several other schools in the area, and the remaining 50% regular students. So the behavior runs from excellent for some groups and horrible for others. It is crowded and I'm sure it can be a rough place to manage.

    That said, from the day Hernandez arrived it was clear she was on the dictatorial side. She does not like anything out of the ordinary, unlike the previous principal who tried to be flexible to support the diverse student population.

    My son was in an intense, fast-paced math class during a period that Hernandez liked to call school assemblies. The teacher requested that Hernandez use other periods as well. The teacher was fired (there is more to the story, but this started the problems). Hernandez also cut down on the number of courses offered, saying that kids that needed special attention could be bused to other places (losing a period of the day). We were happy to get our kids out of there.

  • Jennifer||

    Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer's principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100.

    So hugging people will make the school even more crowded?

  • stuartl||

    And yes, Hernandez does bear an uncanny resemblance to Dolores Umbridge.

  • ||

    Of course, when the kiddies become withdrawn, sullen and detached from their fellow students and emotionally stunted, and consider mowing down their peers with automatic weapons to feel something, this policy will in no way be a part of that psychological condition.

    It will be the video games and the Internet. Oh and the lax gun laws.

  • ||

    Since of course you know better how to run the school than the people who actually do it.

    I take it then, Dan, that you won't be criticizing military actions in Iraq or the riot police in L.A., or the Attorney General's office, or...

  • VM||

    The obvious way to get around this is to promote BATIN very aggressively...

    (ambles off to bunk)

  • ||

    ...he got up from his assigned cafeteria table ...

    I thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that these "educators", who apparently aspire to be prison guards, had nothing to do with my overall excellent public school experience. Learning to socialize is an importtant part of the education experience. This principal, with her education degree(s) obviously doesn't get that. First graders manage to sit down and eat without "assigned cafeteria tables". Jeez.

  • ||

    Jennifer says: "So hugging people will make the school even more crowded?"

    Well, not directly. But, yeah, enough hugging in a middle school followed by some privacy could lead to more crowded schools about nine months plus five years later.

  • ||

    You can't hug your kids with nuclear arms at Fairfax County middle school.

  • Dr. Merrick||

    Must I remind you of the dangers of proximity?

  • Seitz||

    Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned.

    This isn't going to go over well with the high-fivin' white guys.

  • ||

    Does this mean no chicken fights in the halls?

    That school SUCKS.

  • Robert||

    "The point is that, if you read the article, the principal of the school gives some pretty good reasons for the policy, including severe overcrowding."

    You (both of you, Dan T. & the principal) have got to be kidding about the overcrowding's being a reason. If anything, overcrowding would be a reason to not have such a policy, because the more you pack into a given space, the harder it'd be for them to avoid touching.

    Besides, kids are so cute & cuddly, rules against touching them are just plain mean.

  • ||

    VM-

    I'm pretty sure what you suggested would be banned under the "no touching" rule (damn them!)

  • GILMORE||

    GayZORZ!!!

    "some pretty good reasons for the policy"...

    Like:

    Some students -- and these are friends -- play "bloody knuckles," which involves slamming their knuckles together as hard as they can.

    ahh.

    The humanity!!

    It must be controlled before there are outbreaks of purple nurples and noogies as well!

    Listen to how this offender slid down the dark path of touching...gateway crimes...

    Hal's troubles began one day in March when he got up from his assigned cafeteria table and went to a nearby table where his then-girlfriend was sitting. He admits he broke one rule -- getting up from his assigned table without permission -- and he accepts a reprimand for that. "The table thing, I'm guilty," he said.

    The Table Thing. Need we say more? How will anyone do anything right unless they can follow simple administrative regulations?

    Hal said that he and his classmates understand when and how it is appropriate to hug or pat someone on the back in school and that most teenagers respect boundaries set by their peers. Today, his seventh-grade year ends as school lets out for the summer. Next fall, he hopes Kilmer officials reconsider the rule.

    Yet, still, he is unrepentant!

    "I think you should be able to shake hands, high-five and maybe a quick hug," he said. "Making out goes too far."


    Tsk tsk. But once you allow subjective decisions, authority is undermined? Dont you understand, hal, we're doing it for *you*?

    please take the student to room 101 for administrative discipline immediately!

  • GILMORE||

    Dan T. | June 18, 2007, 2:14pm | #
    What doesn't remind you guys of 1984?


    Stuff thats more "brave new world"

    now stop touching yourself

  • ||

    Boy, I'm glad my son doesn't go to that middle school, as he had enough trouble from his Nazi vice-principal in Warrenton, Barbara Bannister, who tried up and down to get him to confess to being the author of some note she had found. He was scared to death that he was going to get a 10-day suspension, which would carry over into his freshman year of high school. Apparently, this woman also suspended a bunch of kids for wearing similar t-shirts with the reasoning that they were displaying "gang colors".

    Fucking Virginia.

  • ||

    "Fucking Virginia." - jf

    Not all, or even most of VA has schools that bad. Warrenton obviously can't afford quality administrators. Perhaps DC with its national high of $14,000 per student could loan them one or more. After all we know how succesful DC schools are....

  • ||

    Bob,

    I just read the PDF of the Fauquier School District policies. It's fucking ridiculous. These kids can't even take a cell phone into school, they can't take any drug unless it's dispensed by the school nurse or "prior arrangements" have been made (maybe that's easy, maybe not, but I'm glad my son isn't a diabetic), and they can't have any "special handshakes".

    I know from experience (as a printer/desktop publisher) to expect that from private schools (which I have no problem with), but my son can't possess a cell phone while on public school property? That's just fucked up.

  • ||

    I guess I get pissed off because my son's mother and I have had some arguments regarding custody since she moved from Ohio to Virginia, and when we were negotiating his (not-to-happen) return back, she was adamant that he would not attend an Akron Public School. However, there policy on cell phones is:

    Board approves new policy on cell phones/electronic devices in school (Back to Top)
    Effective March 19, 2007, the use of cell phones and other electronic devices is prohibited during the school day. The only exceptions to this policy are devices used for instruction under the supervision of school personnel. Students may bring cell phones and electronic devices to school, including on school-provided transportation; however, the device MUST remain out of sight, be in the off mode and be stored in the student locker before and during the school day.

    Also, in Virginia, at least where he is, they teach to those damn NCLB test, and once those are done the lessons are over, no matter how many days are left in the school year.

  • ||

    That makes it easy to say what is display of public affection, horseplay, fighting? You either touch or you don't. It is the digital age, yes/no.

    How many parents, before discipline, are going to go in and say yes please, let others touch my daughter. But how are they going to dance?, wrestle?, play football?

    The big thing right now in public high schools isn't boy/girl public display of affection at school, but girl/girl.

  • ||

    I taught for a high school in Taiwan for a couple of years. It was a private high school. There, they had separate staircases for boys and girls to make it less likely they would bump up against each other.

  • ||

    Akron Public Schools sound like a libertarian paradise when compared to some of these Virginia schools.

    jf,

    Firestone's a pretty good district as I recall (for APS, anyway).

  • St. Lawrence||

    I often wonder whether or not schools promote and exercise zero tolerance policies because it is too much trouble too evaluate children's questionable behavior on a case by case basis, or if they want to send a "strong" message to the children who attend the school that the administration is an authority not to be reckoned with (a mini model of the U.S. with its nuclear and military capabilities), or if they feel they must exercise such policies to protect themselves from overly litigious parents, or if it is a combination of all of the above.

    I think the knee-jerk reaction for parents to sue at the drop of a hat is a big factor in all that schools do, and I think that their own involvement in the evolution of progressively ridiculous policies being instituted is something many parents choose to turn a blind eye to.
    What would they think if they realized that their own greed/ need for revenge could well be at the root of transforming children into detached, self -involved shells of human beings?

  • ||

    what's the penalty if he had boinked her right there in the cafetorium on top of one of the multipurpose table? I say if you're going to get punished anyway, make it for something worth while.

  • ||

    Public education:

    It works.

  • stuartl||

    According to my inside sources, it is mostly just that Hernandez is a twit. She put in place a set of silly rules, such as the must stay in assigned seats, no touching, etc. She has one lieutenant who likes to enforce the rules in the cafeteria. The kids in the cafeteria do mock Nazi salutes behind her (and his) back. Most of the teachers pretend to enforce the rules, but do it with eyes rolling.

    Bloody knuckles is a stupid middle school boy's game, there is no touching involved, they try to draw blood flicking quarters at their opponents knuckles.

    All in all, she is just a classic petty bureaucrat in over her head, trying to get respect. Instead, she gets mocked.

  • ||

    "assigned cafeteria table"? WTF?

    I thought public schools were oppressive institutions when I attended them 40 years ago, but this is just insane. (I'm sure Dan T. will explain the hundreds of good reasons for having assigned seats. Probably because it's necessary to fight racial self-segregation.)

    I'm just glad I home-school now.

  • ||

    One of the reasons given in the WaPo article's comments section for assigned lunch seating is that the kids are entitled slobs (supposedly) and will just leave their trays to be bused by the cafeteria staff otherwise. Assigned seating lets them figure out who hasn't cleaned up after themselves. (This comment was by, I believe, a parent of a child in that school, or ex- of that school.)

    I don't think that's a sufficient reason either. Do they have to sit with their class, or alphabetically, or what? What if they hate who they're seated next to?

  • ||

    What if they hate who they're seated next to?

    Just playing devil's advocate here, but would it kill them to try to learn how to accept that in some situations they may not always get what they want? And they may not always be surrounded by people they like, or even respect, for that matter? And that it is possible for them to maintain their own integrity, regardless of who they sit next to?

  • stuartl||

    I'm just glad I home-school now.

    Like everything else, there is good and bad. Kilmer had some excellent teachers. The fired math teacher was great (a petition for her re-instatement got 250+ signatures). The Latin teacher typically led the Latin team to the top of local competitions (she has now moved on to another school).

    One of the reasons given in the WaPo article's comments section for assigned lunch seating is that the kids are entitled slobs (supposedly) and will just leave their trays to be bused by the cafeteria staff otherwise.

    Somehow, the other middle schools in the area seem to be able to cope.

    Do they have to sit with their class, or alphabetically, or what?

    IIRC, they sat down wherever they wanted on the first day, and that was their permanent seat.

    ...would it kill them to try to learn how to accept that in some situations they may not always get what they want?

    You mean like any other school, having to do homework, take tests, etc.

    And they may not always be surrounded by people they like, or even respect, for that matter? And that it is possible for them to maintain their own integrity, regardless of who they sit next to?

    Since the students have to do this the rest of the day in the classroom, providing freedom at lunch doesn't seem to me to be a problem. This may seem counter-intuitive, but from what I've seen, those school administrations that show students the most respect (as opposed to lots of silly rules and demands for good behavior) tend to get the most respect from the students.

  • Jennifer||

    Just playing devil's advocate here, but would it kill them to try to learn how to accept that in some situations they may not always get what they want? And they may not always be surrounded by people they like, or even respect, for that matter? And that it is possible for them to maintain their own integrity, regardless of who they sit next to?

    Except this flies in the face of the main argument you hear in favor of public schooling these days: sure, homeschoolers may kick academic ass, but what about the all-important SOCIALIZATION you can only get in a public school?

    Yes, because the way to really prepare a human being for socializing with her fellow man is as follows: strictly segregate people so that everybody around you except an authority figure is within six months of your own age. Outlaw free time when folks do things like make friends, but instead make people so regulated that you can't even choose who to eat lunch with. Outlaw any physical contact whatsoever (it's not like humans are mammals with basic mammalian emotional needs, after all).

  • ||

    Since the students have to do this the rest of the day in the classroom, providing freedom at lunch doesn't seem to me to be a problem. This may seem counter-intuitive, but from what I've seen, those school administrations that show students the most respect (as opposed to lots of silly rules and demands for good behavior) tend to get the most respect from the students.

    Just to be clear, I personally agree that fewer, judiciously selected rules tend to engender a more respectful attitude in students, no doubt about it. It is only asking for trouble on both sides of the administration student equation to micromanage every aspect of the students' life at school. You might as well ask all to show up in straight jackets every morning.

    On the other hand, I would not entirely agree that students are asked to maintain their own integrity in and of themselves when faced with people they do not like or respect during the rest of the school day. In a classroom situation the teacher functions as an intermediary. At lunch the atmosphere is less restrictive. There the student has much more opportunity to exercise personal judgment. It is highly doubtful for instance, that the young man mentioned in this article would have put his arm around his girlfriend in class, right?

  • ||

    Yes, because the way to really prepare a human being for socializing with her fellow man is as follows: strictly segregate people so that everybody around you except an authority figure is within six months of your own age.

    Again, I am not saying this practice is ideal in the particular Virginia school situation where it is found, but please tell me how learning to deal with people you do not particularly want to be with acts to the detriment of successful socialization.

  • Salvius||

    I really hate to do this, but:
    "What doesn't remind you guys of 1984?"

    Are you kidding? Have you read 1984? To quote from the Wikipedia article, for no reason other than its being handy:

    Sexual repression
    The Party imposes antisexualism on its members (sponsoring the Junior Anti-Sex-League, etc.), since sexual attachments might diminish exclusive loyalty to the Party. Julia describes party fanaticism as "sex gone sour"; Winston, aside from during his affair with Julia, suffers from an ankle inflammation, alluding to Oedipus the King and symbolizing an unhealthy repression of the sex drive.[citation needed] In part III of the book, O'Brien tells Winston that their neurologists are working on removing the orgasm from humans - Orwell supposed that the sufficient mental energy for prolonged worship requires the repression of a vital instinct, such as the sex instinct. This possibly alludes to the restrictions on sexuality imposed by authorities (civil, political, religious or otherwise, such as in the German National Socialism), be it consciously or by selective pressures on doctrine.


    Is it surprising that someone might be reminded of 1984 by a school policy that virtually duplicates the effect of, if not the reasoning underlying, precisely one of the characteristics of the society described in the novel? Or is this completely different because, as we all know, 13-year-olds don't have a sex drive to redirect?

    I'm not saying anything about whether this policy is good or bad, or even about whether Hit & Run readers may tend to see Orwellian dystopias lurking around every corner. I'm merely suggesting that a comparison to 1984 is perhaps not all that huge a leap in this specific instance, and that this is maybe not the best place to make your stand against unjustified 1984-mongering.

  • stuartl||

    ...please tell me how learning to deal with people you do not particularly want to be with acts to the detriment of successful socialization.

    I agree that this is an appropriate job for school, in fact it already goes on in schools all the time. Students get teachers they don't like, get assigned group projects with kids that don't help, go to PE classes with others they hate. Why is it necessary at lunch time? A little bit of unstructured social time is very beneficial as well.

    Also, since the students got to select seats at the beginning of the year, that clearly wasn't the goal. Hernandez is a petty dictator.

  • Henri Beaulieu- the kids dad||

    They are not allowed to high five, etc. The rule is "no physical contact". Girls can't hug girls, etc. My son was told prior to this when he asked " are high fives allowed" Answer: " you already know the answer to that".

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