Education

Atlas Hugged

|

An apparently true tale of overzealous idiotic school administrators (imagine!) putting an 8th-grade girl in middle-school Gitmo for the dread act of hugging a friend:

Two hugs equals two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan Coulter. The eighth-grader was punished for violating a school policy banning public displays of affection when she hugged two friends Friday.

"I feel it is crazy," said Megan, who was to serve her second detention Tuesday after classes at Mascoutah Middle School [in Illinois].

"I was just giving them a hug goodbye for the weekend," she said.

Megan's mother, Melissa Coulter, said the embraces weren't even real hugs—just an arm around the shoulder and slight squeeze.

"It's hilarious to the point of ridicule," Coulter said. "I'm still dumbfounded that she's having to do this."

I'd say that it's horrendous to the point of ridicule, but I'm heartened to see the girl is refusing to go gentle into that detention room, like some kind of teen John Galt (really bad headline allusion). Indeed, the girl and her mother were all over cable this morning, even pulling more camera time on Fox & Friends than Benazir Bhutto (imagine!).

More here.

I predict a minor uptick in downloads of The Wall in and around Illinois. Or at least a rash of dark sarcasm in the classroom. And am I the only who fears this will reverse years of "Hugs, not drugs" brainwashing?

Peter Bagge checks out insane school admins here.

Ron Bailey grades a dumb school's zero tolerance for silly pictures here.

A depressing look at Nanny State 911!

More reason stuff of zero tolerance.

NEXT: Where Church vs. State Goes To Die

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I predict a minor uptick in downloads of The Wall in and around Illinois. Or at least a rash of dark sarcasm in the classroom.

    OK, that is funny. But you might need to be over 40 to think so.

  2. I heard mention of a waiver parents were asked to sign at the beginning of this school year, when the policy was implemented. That policy didn’t specify hugging, and I’m sure parents thought they were signing a No Tonsil Hockey in the Hallways policy.

    That said, if my child came home and told me they’d been given detention for hugging a classmate, I’d have been at the school in an instant to raise hell. And my child would not be returning.

    How are our kids supposed to learn how to THINK when they’re being taught by THOUGHTLESS drones?

  3. sort of like the TSA confiscating fingernail clippers…

  4. If Tupac was still with us I’m sure he would alter his tummy tattoo to read “Hug Life” in homage to this little hero.

  5. Hugging is out, but can they still have sweaty pillow fights? (for more details, see page 69 of the leather-bound edition of Heather Has Two Mommies)

  6. OK, that is funny. But you might need to be over 40 to think so.

    Thanks, dammit, couldn’t just leave it as funny, have to put in the dig about people who get it being old.

  7. So… “Hugs Not Drugs” is no longer a DARE mantra?

    I can’t understand why the two girls who received the hugs didn’t get detention as well. You put both the pusher and the dope fiend that scores in jail, right?

    I hope all of this zero tolerance madness breeds a healthy disrespect for authority. It’s the only good thing elementary and middle school did for me…

  8. Schools are insane. Despite often horrible educational results, I hear defenders of the public school system say that it’s at least still good for “socialization” — for kids to mix with others of different backgrounds, learn how to get along, not be sheltered, socially inept misfits, blah, blah, blah.
    Maybe there’s something to that, although I hardly think it outweighs the importance of actually educating the little punks.

    But here we have a girl who was behaving like a healthy, well-adjusted, socially functional human being — expressing affection for her friends with a common and innocent physical gesture. And she’s punished for it.

    Again, insane.

  9. I’d like to see the kids stage a “hug-in”. Every time they pass the principal in the hall, they should give all their friends big hugs and see if they school is willing to put half the student body in detention.

  10. Seeing as public schools are a combination of “free” daycare for parents and child prisons, why does this surprise anyone?

  11. I am a teacher (and a Libertarian – isn’t the universe supposed to collapse on itself now?) and my school has a zero-tolerance policy on hugging, kissing, and general physical contact in the hallways. There is one reason why I support this, and it is because I teach at an urban charter where we have grades 6-12 all in one building, and admin feels that 6th graders do not need to be exposed to “tonsil hockey” in the hallways.

    However, most of the touching/kissing the kids do in the hallways is so innocent. None of the boys and girls have torrid make-out sessions in between bells, and many of the girls give hugs and cheek-kisses in the halls – we discourage it, but I never report it. Hitting and violent contact is a different story. I am definitely in the wrong as far as not reporting students who touch in the halls, but I refuse to punish kids for displaying affection and friendship.

  12. Other Matt,
    It’s not a dig at you. It’s a dig at all those wise-ass know-nothing punks. Even so, that’s some pretty good geezering on your part (remember to wag your finger). You should start coming to the meetings.

  13. Too bad the girl was “Megan” and not “Ann” Coulter. Then, she could have written a book about how the 9/11 terrorists instituted the no-hug policy, compared the administration to Nazis, and sold 10 million copies after her first interview with Sean Hannity.

    Instead, she will have to do with a detention and moral support from snarky H&R commenters.

  14. Every time they pass the principal in the hall, they should give all their friends big hugs

    No, they should give the principal a big hug. Any attempt to fight off a mob of hugging girls would almost certainly result in assault and battery, if not the kind of “inappropriate touching” that can get you tagged for sexual assault.

  15. Hugging is out, but can they still have sweaty pillow fights? (for more details, see page 69 of the leather-bound edition of Heather Has Two Mommies)
    Well they can still do blood sacrifice. Details are on page 666 of the human flesh-bound Heathersmomicon.

  16. MadBiker,
    So you are in favor of a broad over-reaching simple-minded regulation. The stated purpose of which is to prevent children from showing affection. You also think this policy should be subjectively and capriciously enforced.

    I think you have a few things to learn about being a Libertarian.

  17. District Superintendent Sam McGowen said that he thinks the penalty is fair and that administrators in the school east of St. Louis were following policy in the student handbook.

    So much for the value of an an education degree. What a friggin’ idiot. I hope he get’s ridiculed while grocery shopping.

    Citizens of Mascoutah, look up the etymology of boycott, take it to heart.

  18. I think you have a few things to learn about being a Libertarian.

    You failed the litmus test, MadBiker!
    To the gas chamber, go!

  19. no, Warren, perhaps I did not state it very well. I think the only reason why the “no touching” rule is in place and is workable is so that 6th graders do not have to see hot and heavy make-out sessions in school (what happens at home/on TV/in the streets is beyond control) but to at least see people behaving with appropriate decorum in large groups.

    6th graders walk the hallways with high school kids. I am glad to say that many of our high schoolers are mindful enough to keep make-out sessions out of the halls. I do not write kids up for hugging, giving cheek-kisses or friendly pats the way I am supposed to. It’s ridiculous to me and I could be reprimanded for it, but oh well.

  20. Warren: “OK, that is funny. But you might need to be over 40 to think so.”

    I’m 18 and laughed.

    Now playing: C:\Documents and Settings\Nigel Watt\My Documents\My Music\The Wall CD1\Another Brick In The Wall (Part II).mp3

  21. There are supposed to be backslashes in the obvious places above. Not sure what happened there.

  22. No touching!

    Just trudge with your heads down like a broken person past the guards from one room to the next and stay at least 10 feet away from the barbed wire fences at all times.

    Don’t make us taser your ass.

  23. Yet another casualty in this nation’s War on Hugs.

  24. Sorry, wrong thread. =/

  25. Do you really need a rule in place before teachers can stop kids from making out? Why not the simple effective “Stop doing that!” “Why?” “I’m a teacher and I said so!” It works for the bulk of cheeky questions in regards to course material, it can work there too.

    Daniel

  26. OK, that is funny. But you might need to be over 40 to think so.

    Thanks, dammit, couldn’t just leave it as funny, have to put in the dig about people who get it being old.

    31 and I found it funny. The Wall is a perennial favorite among teenagers with “angst”.

  27. Do you really need a rule in place before teachers can stop kids from making out? Why not the simple effective “Stop doing that!” “Why?” “I’m a teacher and I said so!” It works for the bulk of cheeky questions in regards to course material, it can work there too.

    Of course we do. Present company excepted, education majors are the botton of the barrel at any university. They can not be expected to discern the difference between hugging and foreplay without a no tolerance instruction that removes all discretion.

    This is not a problem because the superintendant of schools probably has a masters degree or better, and will make sure that overreaction to the policy will not occur.

    Any questions?

  28. They didn’t like it when I blew kisses to my sister when our classes passed in the hallway either, but they couldn’t make me stop.

  29. 31 and I found it funny. The Wall is a perennial favorite among teenagers with “angst”.

  30. “middle-school Gitmo”

    “I’d say that it’s horrendous to the point of ridicule”

    One problem with Reason is that often you guys are guilty of the same hysterics and overstatements that you accuse others of.

    So yes, it’s kind of dumb that a school somewhere has a no-hugging policy. But if you have any sense of perspective whatsoever you wouldn’t want to elevate it to the point of being anything more than a very minor annoyance.

  31. When I went to middle school in the late 60s, we didn’t have time for this. We were too busy beating the crap out of each other. Girls, too.

    “We don’t need no edjucayshun . . . We don’t need no thewawt contrawl . . . “

  32. 31 and I found it funny. The Wall is a perennial favorite among teenagers with “angst”.

    The classics don’t die easily.

    Dunno WTF with my previous post. I’m convinced it was someone else’s fault.

  33. SOP at the Harry Harlow School For Tots.

  34. Hey kids! We know you’re going to be sexually active, and that’s ok!

    Here are some condoms and birth control pills.

    But, hey, no hugging in the halls!

  35. Dan T.,

    I think teaching kids that any and all physical contact is a punishable offense is very much more than a “minor annoyance”. But I guess it’s a good time to go into psychiatry though, because we’ll need a lot of them to deal with all the additional social misfits this will generate.

  36. Is this one of those schools handing out rubbers and oral contraceptives? Cuz that would be totally weird, you know. “Hey, kids, have fun fucking, but ABSOLUTELY NO HUGGING ON SCHOOL GROUNDS WILL BE TOLERATED. Get to fuckin’, now!”

  37. Good one, de stijl. They should all be issued wire friends.

    Or maybe a weighted companion cube.

  38. Jay beat me to it.

  39. Dan T.,

    I think teaching kids that any and all physical contact is a punishable offense is very much more than a “minor annoyance”. But I guess it’s a good time to go into psychiatry though, because we’ll need a lot of them to deal with all the additional social misfits this will generate.

    I’d agree with you if there were thousands of good little middle-class kids being severely punished daily for such crimes as hugging.

    But I think that H&R is really bad about taking isolated incidents and then doing a chicken-little routine. I suspect Meagan Coulter will survive her ordeal with minimal psychological scars.

  40. MadBiker,

    While I’m not sure it necessarily contradicts libertarianism per se, I don’t know if you got Warren’s point that you seem to be advocating a hard-line policy balanced by discretionary enforcement. Couldn’t the rule be more limited to stating no kissing and sexual contact rather than broadly banning all touching? It doesn’t seem to me that that would be difficult to understand or enforce. Am I wrong?

    That said, I commend you for not enforcing a rule in situations where it’s being broken in letter but not in spirit.

  41. A blog post counts as a “chicken-little routine,” Dan T.?

    So, is what you do here (namely, post asinine crap in a churlish attempt to piss people off) the work of a slavering douchebag bent on world domination? I mean, as long as you’re making shit up. I want to play too.

    Are you really incapable of thinking that this sort of attitude among school administrators is unnecessary at best, and downright malicious when it results in punishment for a child who has done no wrong to anyone?

    Do you hate children, Dan T.?

  42. Maybe Dan T. is right. Actually, this could be a good lesson to Megan about how “crazy” the adult world actually is. Especially with people like Dan T. in it!!

  43. Jim Bob, that should be “Why do you hate children.” That way there is no correct response. I learned it from the Nanny Staters. Know your enemy and learn from them.

  44. “Two hugs equals two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan Coulter. The eighth-grader was punished for violating a school policy banning public displays of affection when she hugged two friends Friday.”

    FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP

  45. J sub D,

    Noted, and the question will be posed correctly in the future. 😛

  46. A stupid policy at its core.

    Same as elementary school rules against playing tag.

    The solution is to get involved in your local school up front and work with administration to revise idiotic policies.

    All education problems and all education successes are local.

  47. “The girl and her mother were all over cable this morning, even pulling more camera time on Fox & Friends than Benazir Bhutto (imagine!).”

    Gee, I wonder why everyone will be shocked when radical Islamists take over Pakistan and hand its nukes over to al-Qaeda?

  48. Are you really incapable of thinking that this sort of attitude among school administrators is unnecessary at best, and downright malicious when it results in punishment for a child who has done no wrong to anyone?

    I already agreed that the policy was kind of dumb.

  49. I was a teenage John Galt. It was a shame no one knew who I was.

  50. Hate Pink Floyd, always have, but The Wall brings back fond (in an annoying way) of our supercool high school English teacher, a failed wannabe rock star who kept his hair way too long for way too long, had a 70s mustache (ok, I graduated in 82, so we’ll give him that), rode a motorcycle and generally tried real hard to emphasize how cool he was in spite of being an English teacher – smoked pot, had a bad, insisted we call him by his first name, etc. His bad was hired to play at one of our dances one year. He was the lead singer. He wore face paint – full face paint, a la Ace Frehly – did KISS remove the makeup in the early 80s? Don’t remember. Anyway, one of the songs they did was the Wall. English teacher singing “we don’t need no education” – real subversive, real edgy. Parents thought he was an idiot. Students thought he was kind of pitiful. Don’t know what he thought.

    He did allow us to drink alcohol on school grounds while putting out the monthly school newspaper, though, and he got us excused from classes all day while we did it, so, good for ol’ Pete. The smell of sloe gin takes me back to the Tshacks.

  51. Sorry to beat the proverbial dead horse,

    But it surprises me that the so-called secular public schools are becoming the seat of this kind of puritan regulating. At least in the Catholic schools of my youth they had the excuse of “Leave room for the Holy Ghost”.

    I guess in retrospect I’m not surprised at all. The Progressives always had a stick up their asses (William Jennings Bryan, Ignatius Donelly, et al.)

  52. It’s just more zero-tolerance bullshit. All drugs or druglike substnces are banned because administrators don’t want to take the trouble to discern between heroin and Advil, and all physical contact is banned because they don’t want to trouble themselves with the difference between a friendly hug and making the beast with two backs.

  53. Hey, if the kids don’t like the policy, they’re always free to move to another schoo…

    Oh, fuck.

  54. The schools pull this shit purely because they are afraid of lawsuits. Asshole parents are the underlying problem, thinking of course that *their* precious little darling would never do anything wrong, and so somebody needs to be sued!

  55. I suspect Meagan Coulter will survive her ordeal with minimal psychological scars.

    And a healthy distrust of bullshit “authority” figures.

    Also, the point of this post is to generate scorn so that “isolated incidents” like this don’t become standard operating procedure in the future.

  56. Hey! Mascoutah isn’t that far from where I live.

    An apparently true tale of overzealous idiotic school administrators

    Yes, there are certain teachers who would hurt the children any way they could. (But in the town, it is well-known that when they get home at night their fat and psychopathic wives will thrash them within inches of their lives.)

    And why does Dan T. hate children? Rechanneled anger and resentment, that’s why. He wants today’s kids to suffer myriad little injustices because he was subjected to such when he was a student.

    For example, the meat served in the school cafeteria was often gristly and inedible, but if Dan T. didn’t eat it, he wasn’t allowed to have any pudding.

  57. Stevo, I confess that they poured their derision on everything we did, etc. etc.

  58. All education problems and all education successes are local.

    That’s why we need a department of education in Washington! Oh yeah, maybe we don’t.

  59. SOP at the Harry Harlow School For Tots.

    Actually, isn’t the ultimate irony here is that this school sounds like Ayn Rand’s School for Tots ?

  60. LOL, Dan T.! For that, I will refrain from speaking disparagingly of your comments for at least the next couple of days.

  61. fyodor, point taken. From the POV of someone who works in the school I can see that what they are trying to do is limit chaos and potential violence or harassment in the hallways. But the term “zero-tolerance” makes my skin itch.

    We need room for interpretation, always, but administrators fear the “give an inch, take a mile” phenomenon is going to cause breakdown in the disciplinary structure.

    I had an interesting discussion with my Journalism class today about the requirements to be POTUS. One girl wants to be POTUS one day but was born in the Dom Republic and can never be…she was fired up. The class started asking about why America is called a land of opportunity if someone’s greatest dreams cannot be fulfilled because of the law about natural-born citizenship. We started to discuss other laws and the reasons behind them. I was surprised, my kids are pretty savvy when it comes to understanding their rights and responsibilities, and how to go about questioning and changing policy. I did not bring up the “no touching” rule at our school (there was a HUGE fight yesterday that led to 3 students being arrested and one sent to the ER, so its a bit touchy issue right now), but I wonder how their opinions might be affected or not based on the outcome of the fight.

  62. Actually, isn’t the ultimate irony here is that this school sounds like Ayn Rand’s School for Tots ?

    Kolohe,

    You caught me. I was feeling greedy so I went for the two-fer. The downside is that I’ve had the theme from the Great Escape stuck in my head all day long now.

  63. First, I am a teacher. Second it’s two days of detention not two days of Suspension. They are not water bording the poor girl.

    Think about this,

    Two days of detention for gum chewing. Okay or not?
    Two days of detention for not doing homework?
    Two days of detention for mouthing off?
    Two days of detention for kissing?
    Two days of detention for playing grab ass?
    Two days for talking out of turn?
    Two days for sharpening a pencil?

    Each of these are things that I’ve given detention for, in each case the punishment may seem be a bit harsh, and to be honest sometime the punishment was disproportionate.

    Chances are this girl was warned numerous times and based upon the fact that the parents are willing to make a federal case of it, she is probably a complete brat. Think about it, your girl gets caught hugging, your girl gets detention what do YOU do? If you’re a decent parent you tell your kid that life isn’t fair, suck it up and go to detention.

    As a teacher do I think schools have a lot of stupid rules, you bet. But I can tell you that the problem is you need to have rules that are easy to enforce.

    Thus a rule against making out gets downgraded to to no kissing because making out is too open to interpretation. No kissing gets downgraded to no hugging because the kids are doing heavy petting but not kissing.

    Do I feel sorry for the kids. Sometimes. Our school has a No permanent marker rule. A student of mine who is a fabulous artist had a very nice set of pens taken by an idiot administrator because they were permanent. Forget that they were used exclusively in an art class. Why does the school have such a rule. Because STUDENTS shit where they eat. They continuely tag. Thus, a rule against tagging was insufficient and we had to go nuclear.

    I suspect that if students weren’t dry humping in the hall, such a rule would have never been implemented.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  64. Chances are this girl was warned numerous times and based upon the fact that the parents are willing to make a federal case of it, she is probably a complete brat. Think about it, your girl gets caught hugging, your girl gets detention what do YOU do? If you’re a decent parent you tell your kid that life isn’t fair, suck it up and go to detention.

    Standing up against unjust rules makes one a brat?

    Shorter Joe Dokes: “People should just shut the fuck up and do what we say. The point of school is to force you to succumb to authority and not question stupid arbitrary nonsense.”

    When I was in HS, a jackass teacher like yourself, tried to make me go to detention.
    He didn’t require homework to be turned in, but because he didn’t like me and my lax attitude about doing homework, he threatened me with detention if *I* didn’t have my homework. The next day he checked only my homework, which I didn’t do. When he told me to come in for detention, I explained that unless he was planning on checking every other students’ homework he should not expect me to show up for detention. He didn’t check, and I didn’t show. It was unfair the he singled me out, and I didn’t stand for it.

    Fuck you Joe Dokes and your ilk who demand others suck it up and deal with tyranny and unfairness because “life is unfair”. The world would be a much better place if more people took a stand for what is right instead of the cowards way to just go along to get along.

  65. I suspect that if students weren’t dry humping in the hall, such a rule would have never been implemented.

    I suspect the real issue is that most teachers are too stupid to be allowed the ability to distinguish between dry humping and friendly hugs.

  66. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with ChicagoTom before, but I do now. Why on earth can’t the schools just discipline the dry humpers and ignore the huggers? Do the dry humpers try to say they were only hugging? Can the school not say bullshit, you were dryhumping? I mean, some kids tags so NO kids are allowed permanent marker? That’s not about making rules easy to enforce – that’s about making things easier for the teachers – it’s too much trouble to actually think about what the students are doing, and to use your judgment – so much easier to just say okay, no permanent markers, no hugging, and Advil in your backpack will get you sent home same as prescription narcotics. Because ChicagoTom is right – it’s all about the imposition of authority without the responsibility of how that authority is used.

    Our city’s largest public school district just got a huge ass bond issue passed in a squeaker of an election. And the school district is talking about making parents feel more like partners, getting the community involved, blah blah blah, cause apparently they were taken aback at the vehement and widespread opposition to giving them any more money. Tough shit. This is a perfect example of why the public education system oh hell never mind. Just cue my Public Education Rant No. 36. I’m going to pick up the kid from (private) school.

  67. Joe Dokes,

    Did you not learn any critical thinking skills in college?

    Oh, and

    Fuck you Joe Dokes and your ilk who demand others suck it up and deal with tyranny and unfairness because “life is unfair”. The world would be a much better place if more people took a stand for what is right instead of the cowards way to just go along to get along.

  68. Um, there is a clear cut difference between dry humping and simple hugging. In dry humping there is motion involving certain parts of the body that wouldn’t be involved in simple hugging. So why not just ban dry humping and allow simple hugging? come on. Use your noggins.

    and, yes, dumb rules should be protested.

  69. ….pervert….Get your mind out of the gutter.

  70. schools are going overboard. They don’t have to. They do it because they are too easily into slippery-sloping every little molehill and turning it into a mountain, and thus a rule against something like gangfights becomes a rule against wearing gang symbols – which turns into a rule against wearing belt buckles or some such thing on the grounds that it can constitute a gang symbol… and so on and so forth, until everyone’s coming to school in uniforms that make you look like Bob the Delivery Man. The point of a school is education, not crapping people out with silly rules. Establish the sort of rules expected in workplaces in the adult world, and try not to go much further than that. Otherwise, you’ll be like that school that broke the taboo against rules banning hugging…

  71. Joe Dokes,

    I used to be a teacher, too. And your attitude that people should follow arbitrary, foolish rules because “life is unfair” (a common attitude among career public school teachers, who often look at their professional lives as one, long power struggle) is one of the reasons I homeschool my son.

  72. I just wanted to let you know that I am a mom in this school dist. My son is a good friend of Megan and I of her mom, the 8th graders all sent texts saying they were all going to hug each other in the hallway before homeroom on Wednesday. They were all so exicted to show support, (or just to be smarta$$ who knows LOL) my child asked if I cared that he do this and I said no, but if you get detention you will have to serve it, I can’t get you out of it. So the plan was set….on hitch, the all walk out of their classes before homeroom and the administration and teachers ALL stand in the 8th grade hall watching them. Sombody told!! Poor kids were so upset!! But at least they tried. They were all to chicken I guess with all the teachers watching!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.