- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2000

EULESS, Texas Euless Junior High School has punished two girls for hugging each other in the hallway something the students say should be allowed and that lots of girls do.

Principal David Robbins says such physical contact is inappropriate in school because it could lead to other things. Mr. Robbins said he stands by his rule that no students should hug in school.

"Really, in junior high, they just don't need to put their hands on each other because they can get into trouble," he said.

At the heart of the disagreement appears to be the intent of the girls' hugs.

Mr. Robbins, while not naming the students, described one of the hugs as a "sexual encounter" because the girls "were fronted up, body to body."

He said hugging in school increases the chances of inappropriate touching and creates peer pressure for students who may not want that type of contact.

The eighth-graders who were punished for hugging, Le'Von Daugherty, 15, and Heather Culps, 14, say they are like sisters and often hug to comfort each other or to show support. They said the hugs were not sexual.

"We all just hug each other. All the girls do anyway," Heather said.

The girls were given detention slips Aug. 30 after a teacher saw them hugging in front of Le'Von's locker. On Sept. 15, Le'Von was sent to the principal's office after she was seen hugging Heather again in front of her locker. The first hug was for good luck before a test, and the second hug was to comfort an upset Le'Von, the girls said.

"I don't think I should be punished for hugging my friend. That's ridiculous. We shouldn't be punished for making each other feel good," Le'Von said.

"It wasn't like we were groping each other," Heather said. "I think it's pretty outrageous to go that far."

Heather, who said she often hugs teachers at Euless Junior High School, said she cannot understand how it is appropriate to hug them but not her friends.

"I'm not trying to make a big argument," Heather said. "I'm just standing up for what I believe in."

Le'Von said she is writing a letter and plans to raise the issue with the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school board.

Student codes of conduct in H-E-B and other area school districts have vague rules regarding physical contact such as hugging and appear to allow for educators' interpretation of the behavior.

Hugging is not listed as an offense in the H-E-B 2000-2001 Student Code of Conduct. But it could be considered "exhibiting inappropriate familiarity," considered a Level 1 misbehavior in the code, said Dianne Byrnes, district director of alternative education programs.

The Euless Junior High School student handbook does not list hugging as misbehavior, Mr. Robbins said, so students are given multiple warnings before they are punished for it.

The girls received detention after the first hugging incident on Aug. 30. Heather's detention slip stated her offense as "hugging another student after being told that hugging is against school rules." Le'Von, who said she argued with the teacher about the detention, was written up for being "defiant" and "not doing what the teacher said to do."

After the second hugging incident, Le'Von was sent to the principal's office for arguing with a teacher. She received a Saturday detention for being "rude, discourteous" and "arguing with the teacher." Heather did not receive detention for the second hugging incident.

Mr. Robbins said there have been two incidents in which boys and girls were hugging and students had been punished. But it is "not an extreme problem" at Euless Junior High School.

"You don't see anyone running around here saying, 'Let's clamp down on hugging,' " he said.

Le'Von's mother, Margaret Daugherty, said she supports her daughter's stance and considers Heather part of the family and hugs her, too.

"If a boy and a girl can walk down the hall holding hands and not get into trouble, then they shouldn't get into trouble for giving a small hug. I can't see any harm in it," Margaret Daugherty said. "When I was going to school, I had sisters there, and we would hug. What about family members? Can they hug?"

Le'Von's parents home-schooled her last year after an incident in which they believed that their daughter had been disciplined unfairly, Mrs. Daugherty said. In that case, Le'Von wore her father's jacket to school and was punished because there were cigarettes in it.

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