The State of the Hug in Westchester

Some things just shouldn’t be allowed in schools. Weapons, certainly. Teasing, definitely. You can even make the case that cellphones are too much of a distraction (and a cheating enabler) to be allowed in class. But hugs?

Yes, hugs, to some people, are becoming a problem. According to an article in the New York Times, hugging is becoming the preferred mode of greeting for high school students, to the point where these cuddling clusters are causing traffic in school hallways. And—like most things that are popular with teens—the hugging phenomenon, instead of inspiring a few outbursts of “awwww,” scares some adults. The Times writes: “Schools from Hillsdale, N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or improper touching — or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class — have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule.”

What’s next, banning the high-five (too violent), the greeting wink (too suggestive), or the friendly smile-and-head-nod (could be construed as bullying)? Should we go back to the formal bow-and-curtsey era, where no body parts are in danger of contact? And what’ll they do with those old “Hugs, Not Drugs” bumper stickers? Somehow, “Study Quietly, Not Drugs” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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So far, the hug remains safe in our area. We reached out to schools in Westchester, and so far we couldn’t find a school that has a policy or limitation on hugging. Dr. Jeffrey A. Capuano, principal of Eastchester High School, puts it best: “High school students have an incredible energy level and are very socially connected to each other,” he writes in an e-mail. “Many of the students, more so girls, greet each other with a hug. Many boys tend to shake hands with one hand and hug with the other. We don’t have any issues with appropriateness, as this is just an expression of friendship and connectedness to each other.”

Exactly. Now, who needs a hug?

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