No touching rule incorrect way to handle classroom violence

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What stands out to you most from middle school? Playground games of tag, hopscotch, group skipping games, soccer perhaps, basketball, hide-and-seek — and girls, you probably remember the clapping games, you know, those ones accompanied by songs of dollies, boyfriends, and apple trees, whilst you feverishly clap as hard and fast as you can with the person opposite you: “My father went to sea, sea, sea, to see what he could see, see, see....”

These are the games that childhood memories are made of.

But now imagine if, when you were in middle school, all forms of physical contact were banned — and I’m not referring to just pushing, shoving, hitting, and punching. No, I’m asking you, what if ALL forms of physical contact were banned? Forbidden? A big fat no-no? What would your middle school memories consist of? What games would be played at recesses and lunch times? Bye-bye tag, group skipping games, soccer, basketball, hide-and-seek, and clapping games to songs of dollies, boyfriends, and apple trees.

Sounds utterly ridiculous, does it not? But this is the sad reality that the children of Connecticut’s East Shore Middle School are currently having to face since head teacher, Catherine Williams, put rules in place that prohibit any physical contact between the pupils, after a student was hospitalized when he was hit in the groin.

So, fair enough, recess isn’t always filled with these aforementioned happy and rosy games, as nostalgia would have us believe. In fact, the unfortunate grim reality is that playground violence is, undoubtedly, a growing problem in our schools, and subsequently proving to be a growing concern among middle school staff and parents. But placing a ban on all physical activity? Is this really a realistic and necessary way to handle the problem?

In a letter to all parents at the middle school, Williams stated, “Observed behaviors of concern recently exhibited include kicking others in the groin area, grabbing and touching of others in personal areas, hugging, and horseplay. Physical contact is prohibited to keep all students safe in the learning environment,” reports the Huffington Post. The letter continued, “Potential consequences and disciplinary action may include parent conferences, detention, suspension, and/or a request for expulsion from school.” This was news that outraged parents.

So let me get this straight, because, quite frankly, I just can’t get my head around it, and I’m pretty sure you’re having trouble, too. I’ve already declared anger at the fact that this rule eliminates nearly all, or at least the vast majority, of innocent, fun playground games, and that’s not to mention the complicated situation that gym class will become. But it’s more than that. Much, much more.

No hugging, no holding hands? Regardless of the question over whether this violates human rights, middle school is where children learn the bulk of what they will take on into adult life. If all physical contact is banned and portrayed as a bad thing that will lead to expulsion, what is this teaching the kids? Let’s all tell our kids that cuddles are wrong. Yes, because that’s healthy.

Furthermore, we have to ask ourselves: Just what should kids be learning at school? Children spend more time at school than they do anywhere else, so it seems to me that it is crucial that school be not just a place of academic study, but it a place where children are taught important life skills, the difference between right and wrong, and the difference between proper/acceptable and improper/unacceptable human behavior.

And at no point in my life have I ever been told that hugging, playing, high-fiving and holding hands is by any means intolerable, improper, or unacceptable. What about team-building exercises, learning to work and play with others — can this be done without physical contact? I don’t think so.

And so this begs the question, just how much will this impact these children’s lives in the long run? It is not just fun and games that will be greatly reduced in their lives, but there will be a severe lack of affection, and what most would class as “normal” human interaction. How will this impact their attitudes and personalities later in life? Will it have positive outcomes? Unlikely.

The constant increase and popularity of game consoles and computer games is already a concern in today’s society, forcing us to ask how healthy this is for today’s generation of children. Children should be out playing on the streets with their friends instead of being cooped up in their house playing virtual games on their own, cry parents who remember the days when they would crowd the streets running, skipping, and playing hop-scotch. This exists much less in our streets today, but school is that place where children go and have no option but to play games that require interaction with other children. And Williams wants to take this away from the children at East Shore M.S.

So I’m asking you to be realistic about this, Ms. Williams. How on earth are teachers going to be able to implement this ridiculous new rule? Are they going to watch kids during recesses and lunches, taking note of every single child who reaches out and touches a classmate? It seems unlikely, and, well, completely unnecessary.

Why not just put all the kids in individual cells and provide them with hand-held game consoles during recesses? Yes, that’s a good idea. Let’s do that!