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Hands-Off Policy at Orange County Schools Should be Re-Evaluated

Orange County schools have adopted a hands-off policy for their students and, on the face of it, this seems like a good idea. It is designed to convey the message that aggressive acts between students will not be tolerated. Why should we allow students to hit, slap, or punch each other? In the adult world, we call these actions "assault," which is a crime.

On the one hand, I get it: Let's teach kids attending Orange County schools that this type of behavior has consequences from a young age. Hopefully, they will be less likely to behave in that way when they get to be adults, when the consequences of a criminal conviction for assault is much more serious.

Students Suspended for Violating Orange County Schools' Code of Conduct

Recently, two students enrolled at Hewes Middle School were suspended for hugging, which is a violation of the hands-off policy. The official word is that the young man involved (he is 13 years old) had a history of defying authority and that is the real reason why he was suspended. The young lady (also aged 13) was sent home for violating the policy set out by Orange County schools.

I understand the reasoning behind the Code of Conduct at Orange County schools. It is to discourage unwanted touching between students. I'm all for that. No one should have to be subjected to that type of treatment, but in this case, no one has indicated that either student did not consent to being hugged.

Suspension from Orange County Schools an Appropriate Punishment?

In this instance, both students were suspended from school. I have a suspicion that Orange County school officials became frustrated with the male student and, rather than attempt to get to the root of why he continues to defy their authority, they decided to make an example out of him and his companion.

This type of reaction is common in many situations that come up in Orange County schools, as well as other school districts across the country. Schools either can't or don't want to take responsibility for teaching children the right way to behave, so they make a blanket policy for everyone with no room to look at individual circumstances. We all know the difference between a violent assault and a gesture that is meant to comfort someone. The officials at Orange County schools know this as well.

The policies in place at Orange County schools should be updated to have specific language in them about what is and isn't appropriate behavior. For the life of me, I can't see how suspending two students who were demonstrating affection while at an Orange County school is going to teach them anything of value. I would think there are more important issues to deal with.

Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit Orange County Public Schools.