Arizona students stage hug-a-thon to protest 2-second hug rule detentions

Shepherd Junior High School in east Mesa, Arizona has begun vigorously enforcing its rule prohibiting hugs of more than two seconds' length, and students have responded with a "hug-a-thon":
"I think it's ridiculous," said Chelsea Branham, a 14-year-old student at Shepherd Junior High School in east Mesa.

Branham said she got detention this week for hugging her friend after school...

Branham joined her classmates on Friday for a 20-minute, public hug-a-thon.

"She's taking a stand and I'm standing behind her to do it," said Stephanie Wiegold, her mother.

Link (via Making Light)


  1. I hope all their parents back them. The police state is getting redonkilous.
    I really feel for the future of these kids that are being raised by the government while their parents are slaving for a middle class life style.
    Hugs not Drugs!

  2. Hugging does kinda go against our modern fear-based societal norms.

    I’d also like to see a 15% increase in the suspicion coefficient with perhaps just a touch more avarice.

    You know, to help with the economy and all.

  3. wow this made me very happy, hugs for everyone!

    * huuuuggg *

    one of you IS timing me right? im going for the record :-)

  4. I am a hugger, so I stand behind this girl 100%. It’s good to see her mother is standing behind her, too!

  5. What an uptight school! My guess is that this rule was motivated by “inappropriate” (and possibly same-sex) romantic-like hugging but the school officials were reluctant to explicitly say that because they’re a bunch of redneck prudes. So instead, to save themselves some embarrassment, the blanket-ban on all hugging. Welcome to America, land of the free.

  6. It’s all about fear. Fear is what drives these ridiculous mandates from pinstripe/power suit wearing administrators who strangely do not understand what the hormonal turmoil adolescent kids are going through. Instead, they respond in fear to isolated anecdotal reports of kids experimenting with sexual behavior by making numb-minded rules against hugging, of all things, Jayzus!

  7. Oh well, East Mesa, what can you expect?

    Cory, I’ll see you and raise you on Arizonan stupidity. Note that she had to be talked out of calling for kindergarten staff to wear holstered guns while they work.

  8. Brilliant!! Hopefully EVERY kid violates the no-hug rule and they march en masse to whatever li’l Hitler administrator(s) who created this idiotic, uptight, this-has-fundamentalism-written-all-over-it rule and tell him/her “We’re here to report for our detention, sir!” and proceed to have a sit-in on said li’l Hitler’s office floor.

    BOO homophobic, fear-mongering, closed-minded “authority figures”…
    and HOORAY civil disobedience!

  9. I will not play at tug o’war.
    I’d rather play at hug o’war,
    Where everyone hugs
    Instead of tugs,
    Where everyone giggles
    And rolls on the rug,
    Where everyone kisses,
    And everyone grins,
    And everyone cuddles,
    And everyone wins.

    -Shel Silverstein

  10. It’s easy to see where the line of thinking derailed here. The administration has issues with public displays of affection in school. Kids making out can be disruptive and the school is not a police state for wanting to keep things focused on schoolwork.

    But it quickly goes beyond simply keeping everyone clothed and not swapping DNA to a ridiculous and nonsensical ban. They tried to swat a fly with a bazooka. Foolish.

  11. If you’ll look at the slide-show, it bans same sex hugging, or opposite sex hugging more than 2 seconds. It also bans any kissing(cheek or otherwise), and “pinning against lockers”.

    I fully support this ban. Why?

    Because kids are naturally rebellious, this has just insured that they’ll soon be holding after-school hug parties, and you know what that leads to…

  12. The students need to hold this hug-a-thon on school grounds, all the time, Ghandi-style. They can’t detain the whole school. SOLIDARITY!

  13. phloodpants, I love Shel Silverstein. One of the greatest minds, ever.

    I used to cover schools for a small paper in Northern California and I ran into this kind of thing all the time. School administrators are clueless. You’d think they never ever interact with or even see teenagers, or children for that matter. One great example I can remember: High school vice principals went berserk when they saw some posters hanging in the school newspaper’s staff room. They deemed the posters “inappropriate.” They tore the posters down and scoured the room clean. They were posters of Albert Einstein, Pink Floyd and the best-selling British novel “Porn.” The teacher was suspended for allowing such smut to plaster the walls of their pristine classroom. Everybody defended the action, right on up to the superintendent.

  14. @18
    exactly. The purpose of the ban is to give the school administrators fodder for their cameras – for their “side business”.

  15. I live in Idaho and we were forbidden from wearing gloves in winter by our high school, because they were “gang related”.

  16. Is this an april fool day hoax in march?!
    Or maybe the reason is that US army is spending too much time in Iraq so they are starting to bring back to USA the local customs they learn in Bagdad…

  17. I’m actually rather strongly anti-PDA (public displays of affection), so I almost understand this. I mean, yea, obviously there’s no legal way they can enforce these things (private schools can violate search and seizure with their lockers, but this appears to be a public school, so even that argument fails). And yea, trying to ban something obvious like this will only make it happen more. But seriously folks, get a room. Not all of us want to see you making out in the halls. It’s just common courtesy.

  18. “if you outlaw hugs, only the outlaws will have hugs”

    (long time reader, first time caller… signed up just to make this comment, actually.)

    @#15, I salute you.

  19. This is completely reasonable. If we don’t stop hugging, what’s next? You know what’s next: Dirty, dirty, unprotected ear sex. Only a Communist would advocate for such behavior.

  20. just read their Student Handbook online. I don’t understand , if they support home schooling so much, won’t they be out of work eventually?

  21. Why has no one asked the most important question: where is Kevin Bacon and why hasn’t he rebelled yet?

  22. @27:
    There is a far cry between “Making out in the Halls” and hugging. I am proud of these youths for fighting something is simply inhumane.


  23. excised from the article:

    The faculty managed to inadvertently break-up the protest when 46-year-old gym coach (on the right, with reddish, enlarged nose) Jim Vola decided he wanted to participate in the protest, and began hugging many of the girls, at times for as long as 2 minutes before they struggled to break his grip. Said one girl “it was creepy for sure, he wouldn’t let go, and it almost sounded like he was gently sobbing at one point!”

  24. It seems like the anti-hugging rule is an (admittedly, overzealous) response to PDA:

    After many students began expressing concern about public hugging and kissing in the hallways, the school began reinforcing the guideline by punishing huggers, which led to Friday’s protest.

    There’s probably a better solution, but at the moment I can’t think of one.

  25. I grew up in Tempe, which is right next door to East Mesa. East Mesa = Mormonville. So that’s probably part of what’s driving this anti-hugging action.

    Good for the kids. Standing up for what they believe in.

  26. In the early 1980s, at our middle school, we were banned from singing the Olivia Newton John song “Physical.” Clearly, that’s the reason we’re all fat now.

  27. @Phloodpants

    I love those poems, but what makes me truly appreciate Shel Silverstein is his song “A Boy Named Sue”

    I’m wondering, did you have to look that up, or have the poems burned themselves into your soul, word-by-word?

  28. So, I live in AZ. Last week my son brought home a flyer explaining that if my first grader is on the playground and either hits or is hit by another student the school is required by state law to call the police and CPS.

    Let me say that again. If a six year old loses his/her temper and hits another student, the school is required by law to report it to the police.

    At least they can still hug.

  29. @ Calabanos:
    *headdesk* I’m thankful that law did not exist when I was 6 (1991). Otherwise I would have had a record before I left 6th grade, and I’ll tell you why. I attended a larger “inner city” school in Phoenix. Day in and day out life was miserable because the other children bullied me, and the school did nothing about it, I suspect because those children’s parents/legal guardians could have been gang members. About once a year I’d physically defend myself, and I’d be in the prinipal’s office for it. Yup, because the school is bullied by the gang community, I had to be bullied too. Because that is a great model of justice for school children. Now, I’ve unloaded all that mental baggage long ago, but it does not mean that my back and palms don’t have calluses.

    Note to (Arizona) schools: If you really are interested in maintaining and teaching justice, do it. “Sticks and stones” AND words are weapons, so get rid of them. And quit looking the other way when injustice happens, even if the perpetrator’s parental units happen to be bullies themselves. Decide which behaviors shall not occur on your campus and enforce the rules against such behaviors, instead of making rules that prohibit appropriate behavior.

    Sorry for the rant, BoingBoing creators and readers, I know you all alredy know this. My home state it seems not so much.

  30. Just make sure that you don’t mention anything about Jesus and drugs or Kenneth Starr will get involved

  31. #36: “There’s probably a better solution, but at the moment I can’t think of one.”

    I don’t know… but 2 seconds seems rather short for platonc hugging. Upping it to even 5 seconds would go a long ways.

  32. Wow… we are becoming more alienated from each other all the time. When I was a kid, campers hugged camp counselors, students hugged teachers, we hugged each other, there was AFFECTION all around and no PDA, pedophile, stalker, etc PARANOIA. I freaked out the other day when i took my grandkids to camp and when they went to hug their oldtime counselor, he held them away. I asked him why and he said it was the rules. Then we wonder why we have so many psychos and serial killers now. e’ve become a cold, paranoid country where “don’t talk to strangers” has turned into almost “everyone is a sexmaniac, pervert, pedophile, stalker, and lunatic unless proven otherwise.” This is horrible.

  33. Oh frak. That’s like five miles away from my house. Double frak I went there!!! I just want know when the administration there went NUTS. I mean come on 2 sec. hugs? Really? Do we have to enforce such a rule? Do we really NEED such a rule?

  34. @41
    did you read their student handbook? You are not even allowed to hit back in self defense

  35. I’m actually rather strongly anti-PDA

    I pray for your sanity that you never have to travel to Latin America, Africa, Asia or Southern Europe. Or any US neighborhood where names end in a vowel. Friends are all over each other in most of the world, and were so in the US until the early 20th century. Primates are evolved to groom each other. This non-touching thing is unnatural. If you don’t want students making out in the corridors, then have a no making out rule.

  36. Takuan @48: You mean it isn’t like that in all schools? Because I know in all the schools I attended growing up, defending yourself when you were assaulted still got you suspended for “fighting”. But then, in the schools I attended, you could also get suspended for things that happened away from school grounds. (Get into a fight at the mall? Suspension.) So maybe my school district is abnormally stupid.

    Trimeta @36: I’m not really sure why hugging would fall into the category of excessive PDA to begin with. Groping and making out in the hallways? Sure, ban it. Hugging? Seriously? That’s a problem for someone?

  37. It is one thing to forbid “fighting”. to explicitly forbid the raising of your hand against another in self defense is antithetical to what education is about.

  38. Well, yes, and yet that’s exactly what my school district does. They call it fighting even if you’re only trying to avoid being beaten unconscious. I’d assumed it was SOP for schools, despite being a particularly nasty bit of institutionalized victimization. Or, perhaps, because it is.

  39. very well.

    Blocking is attacking. Teach them how to break the bone while deflecting the attack.

  40. @49

    Are you kidding me?!! I had a guy take a swing at me and I fought back. Two day suspention!!! WTF? The fight lasted all of fifteen seconds and I got a TWO day suspention whilst the guy that started it got a 30 MINUTE detention. Something seem wrong there or is it just me?

  41. a Glasgow kiss can also be explained away as inadvertent entanglement. Depending on the height of the recipient,damage can be adjusted as merited. Keep the chin tucked – this is ESSENTIAL. Witness reports can be adjusted according to your acting ability at the time.

  42. If I ever get called in because my son was fighting my first question will be “who threw the first punch?” If my son did it, he’s really busted. If the other kid threw the first punch and he wasn’t being bullied I will proceed to file assault charges unless the school backs down on punishing my son.

  43. When the cops get called on a domestic dispute, they assume mutual guilt because there’s no proof sans reliable, unbiased witnesses. The school is in the same position. If nobody is injured, they should probably write it up and file it. If a student has a pattern of incidents, then they should pursue it. Bullies should be rooted out and impaled, but every schoolyard kerfuffle shouldn’t be turned into a felony trial. Kids fight. Zero tolerance policies make it less likely that the kids involved, both bullies and bullied, will get proper evaluation and support by the school psychologist, Child Protective Services, etc.

  44. Just more hugs as protest? How about buying a a case of orange box cutters, collecting blood in buckets, mixing it with their cut-off hair and throwing the gunk at the school? Oh, I see, it’s just *girls* involved. Sorry. Guys don’t hug.

    [Note to high school students: most high schools use a master lock system, so the after-hours janitor can empty the trash. All you need to is steal one lock from a neglected area of the school and file a key blank to fit the SECOND set of tumblers inside the lock, so they all sit flush with the disassembled lock cylinder. That key will open almost any door in the school, often including minor hidden side-doors in the heart of darkness, then it will open the principle’s reception rooms, and her office too. You must first disable any alarm systems (you know, little magnet boxes on top of doors or hooked to windows or microphone monitor boxes or cameras, arriving to class early, when you then turned off by and clipping their wires, which you then strip and twist together then tuck away so it looks fine. Do this weekly for a few months, and they’ll give up on it. Obviously don’t tell the whole football team about this or they’ll play the “good cop/bad copy” trick of lying that all your friends already narced on you, so you will get off easier if you narc on them too. That’s called the “prisoner’s dilemma.” Initial “hints” such as super-gluing her phone down work wonders. If the crazy people who like to emotionally abuse students do not take such hints well, a legally purchased bucket of crickets or a pig’s head can do wonders. They’ll install metal detectors, expecting another “school shooting” or truly terrorist activity. That is not your intent, nor your psychological intent. That’s all in their mind, so that’s their problem.]

  45. From their handbook:

    “Students may not wear potentially distracting signs to call attention to them. This includes, but is not limited to, birthday or other congratulatory signs. 5th dress code violation. Same as 3rd violation, except student receives three days in ALC for defiance of authority.”

    “Skin-tight outer clothing, such as spandex, is prohibited unless it is worn for a school-sponsored extracurricular activity (for example, dance or wrestling).”

    Sharia Law:

    “Tank tops and other sleeveless tops are permitted only if the straps are wider than 1 ½ inches (3 inch straps required at Shepherd) and the armholes are no lower than 2 inches from the armpit.”

    “Clothing or attire by which an adolescent female student does not wear a bra or underwear…”

    Racist Whitebread rule:

    “Bandannas, hairnets, and do-rags are prohibited.”

    No Matrix look:

    “Trench coats and other oversized clothing that can conceal contraband are prohibited.”

    God if only this applied to NYC taxi drivers:

    “Students are expected to bathe and groom themselves regularly so that any lack of personal hygiene is not annoying or disruptive to students or staff.”

    No Native Americans or Africans:

    “Secondary students may use cosmetics. Heavy mascara and other use of cosmetics that give the student a disturbing or distracting appearance is prohibited. Face paint is prohibited.”

    And you must in 1950 manner conform, period:

    “Shepherd students are expected to exhibit respect toward
    other students and staff members. Respect is defined as….being polite and cheerful and follow the norms of society.”

    And politically correct too:

    “Hitting…in self-defense…is prohibited.”

    “No open beverages are permitted, including water.”

    “Hair that is dyed in unnatural shades or is disruptive to the learning environment is not permitted.”

    “Because students’ eyes must be visible, hair may not hang past the forehead or cover their eyes.”

    “Skateboards are not allowed on campus due to…vandalism.”

    “Nonessential items (balloons, stuffed animals, flowers, gifts, etc.) are not permitted on campus.”

    Extension of school policy to one’s entire life:

    “All rules dealing with student behavior also are enforced while students are en route to school or going home after school and at all before- and after-school activities.”

    Stasi environment:

    “ID must be worn on a lanyard around the neck or clipped to collar (not cargo pockets, belts, cuffs, etc.). ID will bechecked each hour as student enters and leaves classroom.”


    This isn’t a bad school, even though it *is* one on paper. That’s always been the case. What makes it a bad school is that they are actually, bureaucratically, actually following throwing the book at kids, for being kids.

    Look out though. My mechanical rebellion towards you shall be joined by computer savy kids who know how to look up your security system (and standardized textbook test answers) on Goggle, based on brand-names like SONITROL, and they can look up the entire wiring diagram for your building, and look up where each administrator went to school, and can install their own highly embarrassing (to you) hidden cameras in your HOUSE, and tap your phones, wirelesslessly. Kids of age 17 have nothing better to do in your tired suburban communities.

    My advice to you is to encourage youthful energies instead of repress them. How? STOP MAKING IT COOL TO REBEL. How? Draw a different line in the sand. Criminality is expulsion. But respect their right under common law to not be x-rayed, or metal-detected, or locker-searched, or forcefully pumped up with prozac. STOP THAT STUFF. NOW. Or we old folk will tell them our real tricks, not the obvious ones, and you will have a real rebellion on your hands, no matter how much your crappy sex life makes you jealous of young girls having more fun than you did when you were their age.

  46. Wow. School was a lot more fun in the 60s and 70s. I had ass length hair and purple fingernails in high school. My critical writing teacher was the school hash dealer. And my biology teacher gave us tips for suppressing our gag reflexes in romantic encounters. This country really has gone to hell.

  47. Who? Actually if you mean me, since I’ve had awful memories coming back to me tonight about the prison that was suburban high school in Minnesota, full of underpaid emotionally-abusive teachers.

    But nobody said the “STUPID NIGGERS WERE GETTING UPPITY” did they?

    It was only when I finally moved to college in NYC that I saw how cute Asians, Hispanics and college-bound blacks etc. were so that would not be the spirit any message I would express.

    If I did use a slur, I meant white niggers, of course, nigga. Whitebread? Ah, that’s pretty much not a slur since its hard to slur your own kind, since I am white, “whitebread” being a bastardized compound word, meaning “white bred” as in having only “white” (in my case Greek, English, and Dutch) ancestors.

    What does “slur” mean?
    Let’s do a little research, namely my eight pound dictionary.

    Slur merely means to pass over lightly without due consideration. Well, given two hours, I certainly didn’t slur. But your one-liner indeed, by definition does count as a slur.

    So lets look at “racist”:
    It’s included only in racism: “The notion that one’s own ethnic stock is superior.”

    Not satisfying. Let’s get out the twenty-two pound dictionary:
    Slur: “An insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo.”
    Racist: really long, but says same thing as above.

    So does whoever you are asking to retract a “racist slur” likely “care to” to so?


    Why? Because calling an opponent of your self-image-based idiocy a ‘racist’ is an ad hominem attack unworthy of other than an essay flavored round-about response.

    Having been bantering to my Korean lawyer girlfriend about this, I don’t think a racist slur was included in this thread, except there *was* indeed a sexist issue I hadn’t noticed before, so I assume you mean that females are of a different “race” than males? My romantic life supports this idea, but I didn’t say that. You did! If by race you mean rat-race, then indeed I agree, but the one statement that is alone singular in its PROFOUND SEXISM is:

    NAMELY: “Hitting…in self-defense…is prohibited.”

    Since self-defense includes the criminal act of rape, and this little booklet forbids it, that means if you are a female being RAPED, you cannot fight back, on or off campus.

    Nor, since females are little huggie bunnies, can you express your innate femaleness at school, which you must attend, as mandated by government.

    I love hanging out with females as “just friends” instead of males, for this very reason, despite being straight as an arrow. Why? I can *hug* them, even snuggle, sniff and tickle, and a fact stands that sexually active straight males don’t like to snuggle, sniff or tickle each other mainly because guys are about as fun to snuggle with as it is fun to snuggle up at night to a cinder block instead of a down pillow, especially since warm touch gives us men homophobically weird erections.


  48. “She’s taking a stand and I’m standing behind her to do it,” said Stephanie Wiegold, her mother.

    What is she, entering a “Bad Parent of the Year” competition?

  49. Public school used to actually be fun. These twats have sucked all the fun out. Good on these kids for rebelling against out-of-touch asinine policies.

    Besides, what harm does hugging do? Wouldn’t life be better if people hugged more?

  50. ah Nik,if only I could pick you up and drop you some place where the world would be new to you…..

  51. Oniiue,

    Try to think of Nik, not as a political commentator, but as a potential drinking buddy.

  52. how do we get to badger testicles from no-hugging? Right! Enough of that! Clear off you lot!

    It’s a man’s life in the Army!

  53. Ya know, I might try to see if I can start one of these!! I got called for a “Public Display of Affection (which is NOT in the school manual)” because my arm was around my girlfriend’s shoulder at lunch, our forty minutes of free time. Yeah, I’m sixteen, she’s fifteen, but that was NOT necessary. It had no sexual connotation, she LIKES my arm around her, she was cold, and I like having it around her as well. These totalitarian principles and, as the Vice Principle is called in my school “The Dean of Discipline”, are WAY to strict. Some people at my school practically walk around making-out (repeatedly kissing in case you didn’t know) in the hallways, and it’s the smallest physical contact they choose to crush. You can’t bind love with shackles of oppression, even if you say we don’t “Fall in Love” now, who gives ANYBODY the right to tell anyone else how they feel. Perhaps my generation is considereably more emotional then the last, or the ones before, but isn’t connecting with other human beings what we should all be doing? If the world sat down, forgot our physical differences, forgot about 2,000 year old problems, and connected on any level, imagine what we could acheive. But connection requires some type of physical contact. Homophobic guys may not hug, but we still connect on physical levels, just not the same way. This is really something we need to get past, that physical connection is truly important to the human psyche.

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