Putting Education Reform To The Test

Two Florida Middle School Students Suspended For A Hug


A hug is as popular as a handshake in the South.  We greet friends and family with a hug. We bid farewell with a hug. Just tell your kids not to do it in school.

Two Brevard County middle school students received a day long, in-school suspension last week after the principal saw them hugging. There was no other public display of affection between the boy and girl who say they are best friends.

Even the principal at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay said it seemed innocent. But the school’s no-hugging policy doesn’t differentiate between innocent and less appropriate forms of touching in the hallways. So these teenagers now have suspensions on their records. A spokeswoman for the district said the school’s zero tolerance policy doesn’t allow for opinions about whether a hug is appropriate.

“Zero tolerance” came into vogue after two seniors at Columbine High School went on a shooting rampage in 1999. They killed twelve students and a teacher, injured two dozen others, and committed suicide.

Supporters of zero tolerance policies say the rules enable school administrators to keep the peace without having to second guess decisions or show favoritism to particular students. They say innocent acts that get swept into zero tolerance crackdowns are uncommon.

Critics say such policies allow no flexibility for handling innocent acts and remove common sense from the equation. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers a fact sheet that says these policies are “ineffective in the long run and are related to a number of negative consequences, including increased rates of school dropout and discriminatory application of school discipline practices.”

The NASP cites national data showing more than 75 percent of the nation’s schools have zero tolerance policies in place for serious offenses like firearms, violence, and drugs.

Southwest Middle is the only school in Brevard County that doesn’t allow hugs among students. The mom of one of the suspended teens wants a policy change at her son’s school. She says she may hire an attorney. For now, the school principal says the no-hugging rule will stand.


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