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California junior high a no-hugging zone

hugging February 13, 1998
Web posted at: 9:37 p.m. EST (0237 GMT)

FULLERTON, California (CNN) -- Despite complaints from students, a California junior high school principal says she will continue to enforce a ban on hugging.

"The rule is, you keep your hands and your feet to yourself. The guideline is, no inappropriate displays of affection," says Tammy Brown, interim principal at Nicolas Junior High School in Fullerton.

The ban has been on the books at the school for about seven years. But it was largely unenforced until Brown was put in her post in January.

vxtreme CNN's Jennifer Auther reports.

"Can students give each other high-fives? Yes. Can students pat each other on the back? Yes. Can they be friendly with one another? Yes," says Brown, who says staff and faculty "redirect and refocus" students caught in an embrace.

"The staff and faculty do not go around being the hug police," Brown says.

Two students complain to school board

But some students aren't so enamored of the policy. Two of them -- Alicia Galvan, 15, and Katrina Weed, 14 -- took their complaints about the hugging ban to the Fullerton School District board.

"They tell us, 'Hugs, not drugs,' But now, you're not allowed to hug, and if you hug, you'll get a Saturday detention"

— Alicia Galvan

"I've often been told that a simple hug can ease a troubled mind. In junior high, when troubles are blown way out of proportion, it's amazing what a hug can do," Weed said.

But the school board is backing Brown.

Board President Robert C. Fisler, a former teacher at Nicolas, says the rule helps prevent allegations of sexual harassment, which, under state regulations, can be grounds for expulsion.

"Hormones run rather high sometimes, and these kids hug each other and sometimes they clutch each other and they hold hands," Fisler said.

ACLU: 'I think we need to lighten up a little bit...'

Tammy Brown
Interim principal Tammy Brown defends the rules
icon 468K/21 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Ramona Ripston, executive director of the Southern California ACLU, says the hugging ban probably passes constitutional muster because "there's nothing in the Constitution about hugs." But she says the ban "seems silly."

"I think we need to lighten up a little bit about some of the things that we're beginning to regulate in this society," Ripston says.

Brown says that despite fears of some students, the policy won't affect a planned Valentine's Day dance at the school.

"I assume if they are slow dancing, they are going to be embracing, and I will be there and it will be fine," she said.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther and Reuters contributed to this report.


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