Schools Ban Hugs, Party Invitations, Homemade Food

Tuesday, 19 Mar 2013 12:51 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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Elementary schools in one Maryland county are cracking down on certain activities that could lead to unsafe environments, administrators say, instituting new policies on visitor hugs, birthday party invitations, and homemade food in classrooms.

In response to many issues related to school visitors, a panel of several parents and teachers established the new guidelines, effective immediately, which apply to all visitors, parents, and students at all schools in St. Mary's County.

Parents visiting the cafeteria should not hug or touch children other than their own, nor should they discipline other children, the guidelines say. Parents should also not walk with their child when he or she leaves the cafeteria.

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Next, birthday invitations should not be handed out at school because students who are not invited could have their feelings hurt. Executive Director of Elementary Schools Kelly Hall told Southern Maryland Newspapers Online that school PTAs could develop phone and email contact lists, with parents' approval, to distribute.

Another provision in the new guidelines states that foods for celebrations should be limited to store-bought items that contain ingredient lists so as not to interfere with children's food allergies.

"We think it's the right balance between safety and parental involvement," Hall told SoMdNews.com.

Other rules include limiting recess visits for parents, prohibiting visits from siblings, and a ban on approaching teachers in person to schedule meetings.

"I think this is horrible," said board member Cathy Allen. "Certainly, elements of this are going to decrease parent involvement. It's just the nature of the beast."

Teachers and administrators across the country have been on high alert since the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., often going overboard with safety policies and disciplining students for innocuous things.

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Earlier this month, a Michigan elementary school made a classroom mother remove the little toy soldiers she had placed on top of the cupcakes she brought in for her 9-year-old son's birthday. The principal called the decorations "insensitive."

Around the same time, a 7-year-old at another Maryland elementary school was suspended for nibbling a Pop-Tart into what his teachers claimed was the shape of a gun.

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