Va. School’s No-Contact Rule Is a Touchy Subject

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!!!!!”


It isn’t as if hug police patrol the Kilmer hallways, Hernandez said. Usually an askance look from a teacher or a reminder to move along is enough to stop girls who are holding hands and giggling in a huddle or a boy who pats a buddy on the back. Students won’t get busted if they high-five in class after answering a difficult math problem.

Typically, she said, only repeat offenders or those breaking other rules are reprimanded. “You have to have an absolute rule with students, and wiggle room and good judgment on behalf of the staff,” Hernandez said. —Maria GlodVa. School’s No-Contact Rule Is a Touchy Subject (Washington Post (will expire))

The article features the plight of a boy who got into trouble for giving his girlfriend a hug — but it also notes that the hug was one of two infractions: the boy also got up from his assigned seat and went over to his girlfriend without permission.

I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with the principal’s statement that students need to comply with an absolute rule, but that enforcers need wiggle room. If you call the rule absolute, doesn’t that just teach students to think of rules — even so-called absolute ones — as a means of dishing out arbitrary punishment at the whim of an authority figure? If there is wiggle room, then the rule is not absolute. It might be appropriate to say that touching itself is not a problem, but to enforce rules against such things as bullying, loitering in the halls, distracting other students, and dress code, and noting that monitors will naturally be drawn to the activities of two students who are touching one another, and that any violation of the rules that really are disruptive can lead to a harsher penalty if touching is involved. But my solution may not work for a building housing 1100 tweenagers in a space designed for 850.

The article also refers to different cultural notions of what counts as acceptable personal space.

Still, the fact that these kids even have assigned spaces in the cafeteria suggests that maintaining crowd control is more important to the administrators than teaching socialization. I understand that there are only so many hours in the day and there are probably only a small number of kids who are causing the problems, but “what about socialization” is typically the first question that homeschooling families hear from people with kids in public or private schools.

I grew up in Vienna, and I was bussed right past Joyce Kilmer to a different school. The school’s namesake is best known for his poem “Trees.”

I haven’t the energy to write much more than “I think that I shall never see / A rule so laughably PC.”

See also “Fisher v. Lowe 1999.

6 thoughts on “Va. School’s No-Contact Rule Is a Touchy Subject

  1. Sounds like the goal is crowd control, rather than teaching respect or empathy. The other minor issue is how the rule completely ignores that humans are social creatures. True silliness!

  2. Homeschooling is not the best choice for every family, but any homeschool family will tell you that their kids do have to follow rules.

    As for college prep, here’s a good essay: “In fact, as more than one admissions officer has stated, all else being equal, many colleges tend to choose homeschooled kids for their motivation and for the diversity that they bring to the campus community.” —The Door is Open.

  3. After being in your classes, Dr. Jerz; I can honestly say that I agree that your children will thrive. Peter, especially, is a bright intelligent young man, and Carolyn can think of intentive ways to get attention that’s for sure. lol.

    I just meant that some home schooled children go around with either the “oh, it’s alright; my parents will take care of it” attitude, or the “I’m superior to you in every way” type of attitude.

    What I was saying, also, in regards to the article is that public schools give students, children, or whatever term you prefer to use, the understanding that life has rules, and the rules can not bend. Do home schooled children have this? In some cases, like yours, yes they do. And it works. In other cases, no, they don’t. I, personally, think thats where a public education becomes a big, and needed factor.

    Am I saying that home schooling a child is a bad idea? No, I’m not. In fact, I believe, in a case by case basis, it could be argued that it is a good idea. But sometimes, and i repeat: sometimes, that public education at a public school (such as Greensburg-Salem or Hempfield, to name two) is needed more than the home-schooled.

    Public schools are now addressing those needs that are pushed on us by the cold, corporate world; something that I think is needed. Can you tell me, that home schooling–from a rules point of view NOT an education point of view–will better prepare Child A for college, compared to Child B who went to P.S. 001 In Anytown, USA? Personally, I would say no, it does not.

    Plus, and I can say this from a personal point of view, southern schools are crazy anyways.

  4. We homeschool precisely because we believe our children will thrive, intellectually and morally, if they are *not* conditioned to accept the values of corporate culture.

  5. As Will said, the fundamentals to get along in the corporate, and therefore, “real world” culture. Can you honestly teach your kids that, Dr. Jerz? (I realize their age, by the way.) The point is, most of the home schooled kids I know have always thought–even into their late teens and early twenties–that their parents will ALWAYS be there to do EVERYTHING for them.

    I, as a public schooled kid, realize that the only person I need when going through school, and life is myself.

    Am I saying that the school is right? No, sometimes a school is too strict. But I think in this case, the school was justified totally. There is an absolute rule that says that a student is to be in their seats, whether cafeteria or otherwise. Students are told on the first day of school to follow all rules and regulations or accept the consequences. This student decided to break the rule(s), so he is punished. Plain and simple. I see no harm.

  6. ‘but “what about socialization” is typically the first question that homeschooling families hear from people with kids in public or private schools.’

    I couldn’t agree with you more there! Certainly, can anyone say that it’s worse to keep your kids home and school them there than it is to send them to a place with stricter rules about interaction than, say, anything you hear about prison? It’s almost cliche – “Positive socialization good, but negative socialization bad.”

    I suppose to take a different viewpoint, this school is teaching the kids how to live in an uptight corporate culture…*sigh*

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