Two schools in England have banned their pupils from having any physical contact while at school as part of a safety measure. The BBC reported that parents and carers at Hylands School in Chelmsford were told in a letter to parents that the ban included “any aggressive contact”, “hugging” and “holding hands”.
Meanwhile, Southchurch High School in Southeast said that “students are not allowed to touch each other” with the only exceptions being performing arts, sport and PE lessons. According to the report, both schools said they had received positive feedback from the parents.
In the letter seen by the BBC, Hylands School assistant headteacher Catherine McMillan said: "We will not tolerate any physical contact within our community. This includes any aggressive physical contact, hugging, holding hands, slapping someone, etc.
"This is in order to keep your child safe. If your child is touching somebody else, whether they are consenting or not, anything could happen. It could lead to an injury, make someone feel very uncomfortable, or someone being touched inappropriately."
She added that the school wanted children to "make really positive friendships" but did not "allow romantic relationships" on site, adding: "If your child is asked to take their ‘hands off’ another student, they will receive a loss of privileges.” The school is operated by The Kemnal Academies Trust.
Maggie Callaghan, executive headteacher for Hylands School, said it prioritised "wellbeing at all times" and told the BBC: "All our policies are designed to support our culture of mutual respect and inclusion, and our most recent policy has received positive feedback from parents and pupils alike."
In the letter from Southchurch High School, also seen by the BBC, acting deputy head teacher Ms Murray said: "Students are not allowed to touch each other whilst on site. The only exceptions will be in performing arts, sporting activities and PE lessons, when this is required. This will help to create a calm and orderly atmosphere and ensure that there is no confusion about play fighting or anything more serious."
The school’s deputy head teacher Tracy Airoll told the BBC: "We are pleased that the overwhelming response from parents has been positive. The two letters were both sent out on 9 January.”
The move by both schools has since sparked debates among people on social media, with many arguing that it could cause social anxiety among children. One said: “Hugging and no sexual physical contact is so important to humans and in fact, I struggle to think of an animal that I have seen, not enjoy physical contact. It’s natural and part of socialising.”
Another wrote: “Daft, and seems a perfect way to create a generation who are socially awkward. ‘Aggressive contact’ doesn’t need to be banned because that’s already assault. The kids should stand outside the gates and hold a hugathon in protest.”