Does somebody need a hug?

Are We There Yet?Charla BelinskiGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Charla Belinski

I consider myself a touchy-feely person. You know, the type who hugs friends upon greeting them in the grocery store and pats total strangers on the arm as a form of gratitude. As in, “Thank you so much for showing me where the ladies room is,” pat-pat-pat. I rub shoulders and feet when plopped on my lap, and willingly hug teenagers who make their way into my home. I hug my kids and my husband every morning and every night and more than once throughout the day.

I suppose I got this penchant for hugging from my mom, who can’t pass through a room without retrieving a squeeze. My mom taught teenagers for some 40-odd years, and not a day went by that she didn’t dole out essential embraces in the hall.Good thing she doesn’t work in Oak Park, Ill.If you find yourself in need of a hug, you won’t get it in Oak Park. A middle school principal there banned hugging among the school’s 860 students anywhere inside the building. She said students were forming “hug lines” that made them late for classes and crowded the hallways.”Hugging is really more appropriate for airports or for family reunions than passing and seeing each other every few minutes in the halls,” the principal said when she announced the ban.

Another reason to institute the no-hugging policy was that some hugs could be too long and too close, she said. “The goal is always to promote safe and orderly hallways where everybody can get by, be safe, and be on time.”Sounds like a job for airport security. “Excuse me miss, you appear to be standing too close to that young girl there. I’ll have to ask you to empty your pockets and come with me.” I may be a few decades removed from junior high, but I recall that teachers have always been pretty good at breaking off public displays of affection in the hallways. Used to be it was left to their discretion as to what constituted too much – too much skin showing, too much kissing, too much “hugging.” Maybe that’s our problem – teachers aren’t being given the luxury of independent thought and the right to exercise their own discretion; now they need a mandate to tell them how to intervene. Believe it or not, the principal in Oak Park says the no hugging is part of an anti-bullying and discipline campaign. Kids who aren’t receiving hugs in the hallways are feeling left out. Some kids claim their space is being invaded by all the hugs. So much for teaching tolerance. What’s next, banning grades because it makes some kids feel uncomfortable that they aren’t getting As? Oh, wait, that’s already been done.

The no-hugging policy is just wrong on so many levels.Maybe all the kids should commit to hugging the principal once a day as a show of solidarity. I don’t know if it would make a difference or not, but she might find herself surprised at how good it feels to be wrapped in a warm embrace. Just as long as she’s not late for class. Charla Belinski’s columns appear every other Sunday in the Post Independent. Contact her at

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