Not long ago I saw a segment on Sun TV News that made my eyebrows snap up and my jaw drop. Talk Radio Host Charles Adler was interviewing four students--Diana Holt, Lily Hopkinson, Hana and Janna Ed-Day--from Earnscliffe Senior Public School in Brampton, Ontario about a protest they have started against a No Hug ban that was implemented in their school policy. The four girls have started a Facebook page with the ultimate goal to end the No Hug ban on their school, and in schools abroad.
"No shoves, no hugs," is the new order of the day in several school across North America, Australia and Britain. Wow! It's crazy to think that the pendulum could swing so far the other way since my High School graduation in 2003. It really makes me wonder: has the crackdown on bullying in school gone too far? While it's necessary for school administrators and educators to ensure a safe and peaceful learning environment for every student, banning hugs is going too far to the extreme with the zero-tolerance policy on bullying.
Every child needs a hug from a friend, just like adults do. When you hug someone, you show that person how much you love and appreciate him/her. A hug is also a pick-me-up comfort for people who are going through harsh struggles in life; it gives them the message that they are not alone and the encouragement that life will get better. There is absolutely nothing violent or aggressive about a simple embrace. In fact, children who receive few to no hugs when growing up are more likely to engage in violent behavior than children who receive many hugs. There is no similarity between a hug and a shove.
The problem with school administrators is this: in their effort to root out bullying, they have created a much bigger problem: oppression. Children and teens are now going to school every day with the fear that if they hug a friend, or include one peer in their circle of friends over another peer, they will get into trouble. That's not the kind of environment that fosters emotional and intellectual growth, nor does it promote development of a child's social skills.
You cannot force a child or a teen to be friends with all of their peers, and children should not be stripped of their right to hug a friend. That is the equivalent of taking food away from a hungry child.
Regarding bullying: it's a flaw in human nature that cannot, unfortunately, be stamped out completely. However, there is a better approach school administrators and educators can take to greatly alleviate the problems with bullying in their schools. Rather than focus all of their attention on children's behavior, they should promote creativity and imagination; encourage every student to pursue their dreams, place the needs of others' above themselves, and to be kind and respectful to each other regardless of cultural, socio-economic and religious differences. School administrators should also create after-school and in-school programs that caters to every student's needs and interests. That would give every student the opportunity to find their niche and to meet like-minded individuals. If school administrators and educators would put all of their energies into what children really need and want in life, there would be far fewer stories of bullying incidents and the No Hug ban wouldn't even exist.
I applaud Diana, Lily, Hana, Janna and every other young person who is actively protesting the ban on hugs. I pray that you succeed.
Deanna Proach is the author of two novels: Day of Revenge (Inkwater Press) and To be Maria (PULSE, release date not yet known). She also writes for discounts.ca, a website that specializes in coupon codes.