A Maryland county has implemented new rules intended to improve student safety in the wake of the Newtown shooting, but their methods are raising some eyebrows.
The St. Mary's County schools have new restrictions including "other parents coming in and hugging other children" and bringing in homemade cupcakes or other treats to class.
"The fact is that we want to make certain our teachers and our staff are trained in what’s defined as the appropriate touching of a student versus inappropriate touch of a student," said Superintendent Michael Martirano.
The new rules, proposed by a committee of parents and school staff, are unpopular with with some in the community who say the overstep reasonable bounds.
"The idea that you can't go into a school and be hugged by a child, or go in to have lunch, or be out on the playground and that you can only push the swing for your child and for no one else," is too much, said school board member Cathy Allen.
But PTA president Trisha Post said the rules are a work in progress and the wording could be better.
“We’re looking at gathering community input to say how you feel about this,” said St. Mary's County Executive Director of Elementary Schools Kathy Hall. “The feedback we’re getting is if the student wants to initiate the hug then they’re really comfortable with that. Nobody wants to be the hugging police in St. Mary’s County."
"We’re talking about visitors or other people in school that may not be incredibly familiar with the child in question. We've had some parental feedback that that [hugging] makes some parents uncomfortable,” she said.
Hall said the county schools have more than 16,000 registered volunteers and the hugging ban was intended to protect the safety of students.
Some schools in Oregon, Florida, New Jersey and New York have previously implemented bans on hugging.