A seemingly innocent act has landed a 14-year-old middle school student in trouble after he was seen hugging one of his friends.
Fox News reported that Nick Martinez, a student at Palm Bay, FL’s Southwest Middle School, gave a hug to his best friend between classes. The principal caught the pair, and while the principal admitted that he believed the hug was innocent, he was compelled by school policy to bring the two students to the school's dean, who penalized them with in-school suspensions.
|Even a jovial hug like this one would be a punishable offense in some schools.|
Southwest Middle School's student handbook outlines a clear, zero-tolerance policy against public displays of affection. “Students can receive a one-day out-of-school suspension for kissing, while students caught hugging or hand-holding are penalized with a dean's detention or suspension,” Fox News reported.
School administrators told Fox that a committee of parents approved the no-hugging policy years ago. They also said there are no plans to change it any time soon.
The school's strict policy is aimed at combating sexual harassment; therefore there is no difference between an unwanted hug or a hug between friends.
Many schools---everywhere from Keller, TX and Oak Park, IL to Vienna, VA and Milford, CT---have made news by implementing similar policies.
Christine Davis, spokesperson for the Brevard County school district, told Fox News that the school's "focus is on learning; therefore, we cannot discriminate or make an opinion on what is an appropriate hug, what's not an appropriate hug. What you may think is appropriate, another person may view as inappropriate."
"A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it," Nick told the news agency. "Honestly, I didn't know because I didn't think hugging was a bad thing. I didn't know you could get suspended for it."
Nick's mother, Nancy Crecente, said she will seek to have the policy altered.