A North Carolina middle school became ground zero for a student protest last week after the school’s principal sent an unwelcome directive to students: Stop hugging.
According to Chase Middle School student Parker Jackson, the school principal, La’Ronda Whiteside, told his fellow eighth-grade classmates to stop hugging after they showered Jackson with hugs following his return to school from a seizure attack.
Jackson told local TV news station KSLA that he had been transported from the school by ambulance last week and when he returned the next day his classmates gave him a warm welcome.
After being told at lunch that day to tone down the PDA, Jackson and some of his classmates at the 600-student strong school in Forest City, outside of Charlotte, decided to protest. They created a “Free Hugs” page on Facebook and staged a hug-in the next day at school.
That day, Whiteside, according to Jackson, issued a no-hug directive in a meeting with students.
“She was like, ‘Y’all have no rights to that, even though y’all think you do, it was very inappropriate,’ and that if any teachers catch us hugging that we would get [in-school suspension],” Jackson told KSLA.
When reached today by ABC News, the school’s assistant principal, Dr. Charlie Freeman, declined to comment and directed inquiries to the school’s district office. A request for comment placed with the superintendent of the Rutherford County School District was not returned as of this writing.
The superintendent, Dr. Janet Mason, told KSLA there is no specific hugging ban at the middle school, but that the occasion provided an opportunity for school administrators to speak with the students about personal boundaries.
“We don’t want kids not to be friendly to each other, but there is a line for appropriate touch in school and what’s not,” Mason said, according to KSLA.
The resolution at Chase Middle School is in contrast to the one at Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School in Cliffwood, N.J., which did, in fact, issue a no-hugging ban.
In that case, in March, the principal of the 900-student school declared the campus a “no hugging school” after the school observed “some incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions between students,” the school district said in a statement at the time.