Wednesday, 26 March 2014


No tolerance to touching appears to be the latest disciplinary fad infecting school administrators across North America.  

A Milford, Connecticut middle school banned all physical contact between students, including high-fives, handshakes, and hand-holding, in an alleged attempt to cut down on "horseplay”.  This absurdity was implemented after a student was injured in a "groin-kicking" incident but rather than just dealing with the specific incident, brain dead school officials decided that they had to ban ANY and ALL contact between students.  

A middle school in Canada was in the news recently for their "no loving, no shoving" policy, which is intended to prevent violence and sexual contact.  Consequently four middle school students were called down to the principal’s office for the crime of hugging.  The girls, who frquently got in trouble for the dastardly crime of hugging each other pushed back by organizing a “hug-in” protest at the school.

Schools in Arizona, New Jersey and elsewhere have attempted to implement similar no-touch initiatives.  It was noted that the old adage "keep your hands to yourself" - once reserved for school assemblies and cafeterias - has slowly crept its way into hallways, classrooms and playgrounds policies.

At Mornington Peninsula primary school in Australia one parent said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules.  The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment.   Another parent said his children were told they could not high-five each other.  "I have a couple of children, and they have been told that if they high-five one another that’s instant detention, and if they do it three times they will be expelled," John said.  "I mean, what are they actually trying to teach?"  One child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high-five, it would have to be an "air high-five".

The no touch policy reached its pathological extreme when school administrators at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Aldergrove, British Columbia banned kindergarten students from touching each other during recess.  Students were sent home with a letter on November 1, 2013 advising parents of the new hands-off rule which prohibits games such as tag, holding hands and imaginary Star Wars light saber duels.  Yes even imaginary fighting games (not involving any physical contact) were now punishable by trips to the office and the missing of playtime.

Parent Julia Chen said "I can’t imagine little kids not being able to hug each other or help each other on the playground.  Not tag, no hugging, no touching at all."  The school said it would have a zero-tolerance policy when it came to the no-touching policy and children who break the rule will miss playtime or be sent to the office.

These bizarre rules are often justified as a safety measure.  Principal Judy Beckworth of the Australian school said it was "not actually a policy, it’s a practice that we’ve adopted in the short-term as a no-contact games week".  She said the new practice was introduced yesterday after students suffered a number of injuries on the playground in recent weeks, and the new no-touching rule was only due to last for one week.

"Now it's almost as if it's a sanitized school," said one parent about no touch rules. "Where you have to keep your distance from everybody? And that's not what school is about." It's not what life is about, either. The more we "protect" children with asinine rules like this, the more confused we make them about their own right to space, privacy, and their bodies.  Forcing them to keep their hands to themselves only serves as a means to help the administration keep their heads in the sand.”

Traumatizing five year old over touching each other?  What a gold plated way to cause long term psychological damage to little kids and to think we actually pay one hundred thousand dollar plus salaries to school principals to come up with these kinds of absurdities.

There is a recognized psychological disease known as haphephobia. The (4th Ed.) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association describes haphephobia, or the fear of touch, as “a rare but often devastating phobia. Most people with haphephobia fear being touched by anyone, although some people are afraid only of being touched by those of the opposite gender. Haphephobia is sometimes triggered by sexual assault or another trauma, but more often, it seems to develop without any known cause.   Most people who cannot trace their haphephobia to a specific event develop the fear in early childhood, although it can occur at any time. The fear is highly unusual in that it is not particularly linked to other fears such as social phobia or fears of vulnerability or intimacy. Many people with haphephobia are able to form warm, tight bonds with other people, although they may worry that those bonds are at risk due to their inability to show physical affection.”

It goes on to say “The need for touch and human contact is innate, and the inability to enjoy that contact can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. Haphephobia is extremely difficult for most people to understand, and the rejection of touch may be interpreted as a rejection of the person offering the touch.”

Lawrence Cohen and Anthony DeBenedet in “The Problem with 'No Hug' Policies in School” note that Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who studies recess and rough-and-tumble play, has found that children can tell play fighting from real fighting much better than adults. They comments “Yet adults continue to believe that they are protecting children when they ban roughhousing. No-touch policies in elementary schools are motivated more by safety than worries about sexual contact, but in reality, safety is sometimes a code word to disguise schools’ burning desire for order.”

There is another aspect about no touch rules.  It puts holding hands  on par with a full scale physical assault? Perhaps school administrators in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are inspired by the U.K. which has become the World’s model for a new type of totalitarian state where “crimes” ranging from putting a poster on a telephone pole to robbing a bank are all lumped together under the rubric “anti-social behavior”.  It is part of the very disturbing trend to criminalize a whole range of normal, innocent behavior.

Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society was based on what he saw happening in Germany and the Soviet Union during the 1930's but the totalitarian society that is evolving in the former heartlands of democracy and personal freedom is very much different.  It is characterized by the mentality of a no tolerance policy about five year olds touching each other.  It may be motivated by the best of intentions and it may not seem on par with the physical cruelty that children experienced in the orphanages and residential schools of past years. But it is alarming when school authorities think it is appropriate to put young children into this kind of physical and mental straight jacket.  In some respects it is a measure of control that would not even have been seen in the dystopian society contemplated by Orwell.

Constraining the freedom of individuals - start with constraining the freedom of children.  Children are a prime object of the social policers whether they are drafting draconic anti-bullying policies,  banning books, legislating ASBOS and IPNAS or enforcing student codes of conduct. Starting in the kindergartens teach them to accept a controlled social environment!

What if parents resist no touching and other anti-children rules?  There is a suggestion from Scotland that the state has a new remedy up its sleeve.  It is the Children and Young People Act which was passed by the Scottish parliament on .  Now every child in Scotland, from birth until the age of 18, will have a specific state-appointed ‘guardian’ to safeguard their interests and oversee their safety. Until school age this person might be a health visitor or midwife; upon attaining school age the role will be assumed by a school teacher. This person will have a “duty” and responsibility to act as the child’s guardian and to have legal authority to access information from the police, the local council, the National Health Service and other government agencies.

1 comment:

  1. Children are not old enough to provide informed consent. We cannot allow our children to statutory rape each other.