No-touching policy spurs student protest
Noelle Frampton, March 26, 2009
MILFORD -- In protest against a no-touching policy at East Shore Middle School, an eighth-grade student vows to attend school Friday morning wrapped in blue duct tape.
Several recent groin-kicking incidents, one of which necessitated emergency personnel being dispatched to the school last week, resulted in student suspensions. A letter sent home by the school administration after the incident, however, has raised ire for what some see as an overly strict interpretation of the school policy banning physical contact between students.
The letter cites prohibited behavior that includes pushing, shoving, groin-kicking, "hugging and horseplay," and warned that, depending on the circumstances, students who violate the rules may face detention, suspension or even expulsion. It was prompted by two groin-kicking incidents that parents said involved a girl and two or three boys.
Williams said the letter simply reminded parents of district-wide rules on student conduct outlined in the middle school student handbook, which bans inappropriate and malicious physical contact.
Reading it to mean all forms of touching are punishable is "misinterpretation or a child's interpretation," the principal said, indicating that school staff members make judgment Advertisement calls about whether certain physical contact is positive or negative.
Supt. of Schools Harvey Polansky echoed that concept, saying the letter was designed to reinforce policies that correct careless adolescent behavior.
Eighth-grader Patrick Abbazia, 14, said East Shore staff members strictly forbade any touching, and he's going "to make a stand against this rule."
So Abbazia decided to follow through on his mother's idea and tape his arms to his body at the elbow with duct tape as an act of protest. He said if any teachers object, he'll tell them to call his mother.
Abbazia's father, Edward, said he and his wife were concerned when they read the letter because it seemed to outlaw the kind of touching that young people -- and humans in general -- need to relate to each other.
The senior Abbazia said he witnessed many fights in his days as a student at Foran High School but never saw the repercussions spill out to the entire school.
PTA Council President Kathy Huber, whose daughter attends East Shore, took a different approach, advising her daughter to adhere to the rule.