Teen pushes to relax Va. district's no-touching policy

By The Associated Press
06.19.07

VIENNA, Va. — The parents of a boy punished for violating his Virginia middle school's no-touching policy by hugging his girlfriend in the cafeteria are asking the school board to review the rule.

Hal Beaulieu was sent to detention — a punishment which usually involves being required to stay after school — for putting his arm around his girlfriend's shoulder at lunch several months ago.

"I think hugging is a good thing," said Beaulieu, a 13-year-old student at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. "I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't think it would be a big deal."

But officials at the suburban Washington, D.C., school say the ban is meant to avoid dangers such as gang signs in the form of handshakes. They also point out that some girls are uncomfortable being hugged, but are too embarrassed to say anything.

"You get into shades of gray," Kilmer Principal Deborah Hernandez said, clarifying that the no-touching rule is meant to ensure that all students are comfortable and crowded hallways and lunchrooms stay safe. She said that typically, only repeat offenders are reprimanded.

Hal and his parents, however, argue the rule is too extreme and have written a letter to the county school board asking that it be reviewed.

Hugging is encouraged in their home, and their son has been taught to greet someone with a handshake, they told The Washington Post for yesterday's editions.

His parents say they agree that teenagers need to have clear limits but do not want their son to be taught that physical contact is bad.

"How do kids learn what's right and what's wrong?" Henri Beaulieu asked. "They are all smart kids, and they can draw lines. If they cross them, they can get in trouble. But I don't think it would happen too often."