As schools across the country tighten security in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, one Maryland school district is taking it to the extreme, banning everything from hugs to birthday cake.
St. Mary’s County adopted the new security measures in its 17 public schools in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 school children dead as well as six adults.
The new policy is meant to protect against a number of potential threats to children’s safety, including food allergies, inappropriate contact between adults and minors, and even hurt feelings.
‘We think it’s the right balance between safety and parental involvement,’ Kelly Hall, the district’s executive director of elementary schools, told Southern Maryland Newspapers.
Specifically, the rules ban hugs between children and adults who aren’t their parents, limit sibling visits during the school day, and prohibit kids from sharing baked goods or giving out birthday invitations at school.
Impromptu teacher-parent conferences are also banned in the new policy.
Referring to the rule regarding party invitations, Hall said, ‘If there are 20 individuals in the class and someone brings in seven birthday invitations, it was creating an academic disruption. People were getting their feelings hurt.’
School board member Cathy Allen said she thinks the new rules are ‘horrible’ and will have the unwanted effect of discouraging parents from volunteering at the school.
‘The idea that you can’t go into a school and be hugged by a child, or go in [to] have lunch or be out on the playground and that you can only push the swing for your child and no one else’ is unacceptable, she told NBC News.
But in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, ‘everybody’s anxiety is high’ and the rules help to assuage parent’s worst fears when they send their kids off to school every morning, said school board member Mary Washington.
‘We are entrusted to protect all our students,’ Washington said.
The school board was considering the new guidelines prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy, and then decided to implement them in its aftermath. School officials say they are not final – even though they are already in place – and that they are looking for feedback from parents.