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How Hugging Became an Act of Civil Disobedience at This Middle School

Students just want to give a classmate who has seizures a hug.

Can't we all just hug it out? Not if you're a student at Chase Middle School in Forest City, North Carolina. Administrators there objected to supportive hugs given to eighth grader Parker Jackson—he'd had a seizure on campus the day before and had to be taken away by paramedics—after his return to school. If students hug, they face in-school suspension, but they’re ready to get their hug on in protest.

After seeing the supportive hugs Jackson was getting, the assistant principal told him that hugs aren't allowed in school. He and his friends cooked up the hugging protest and used social media to get the rest of the school’s eighth graders to participate. The next day Principal La’Ronda Whiteside brought the hammer down.

"She was like, 'y'all have no rights to that, even though y'all think you do,' it was very inappropriate, and that if any teachers catch us hugging that we would get (in-school suspension)," Jackson told local television station KSLA 12.

The Rutherford County School District superintendent’s office backed up Whiteside, claiming that public displays of affection are against the rules. However, there's no mention of hugging or PDA in the district's Middle School Policy Handbook. There's simply a prohibition of "behavior which is immoral, indecent, lewd, disreputable, or of an overly sexual nature in the school setting."

It's understandable that schools don't want students having makeout sessions in the hallway, but putting a friendly hug in the same category seems extreme. At a time when we need students to stop bullying each other and to develop empathy, it seems like the students at Chase are actually on the right track. After all, isn't giving hugs better than, for example, students making fun of Jackson because he has seizures at school? C'mon, Principal Whiteside. Let the kids hug it out.

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