‘Hands up and step away from the child’

As a second-grade teacher in New York City, Eli Kaplan was told never to hug a child, he writes for the Good Men Project. If a child hugs a male teacher, he’s supposed to put his hands up in the air to avoid touching the student. “Essentially, if a student gave me a hug, I was supposed to act like I was getting arrested.”

Female teachers can hug without fear, but males are presumed guilty of pedophilia till proven innocent, Kaplan writes.

To avoid all complications, I was taught to show no affection at all (other than words of encouragement, and the occasional smile or high-five).

Kaplan ignored the advice and “freely gave out and accepted hugs.”

. . . our society perpetuates the idea that an appropriate male should be cold and stiff (not that kind of stiff) around young, impressionable, and fragile children. To be a man who is too warm, affectionate, or loving, is un-male, strange, and suspicious.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal is going to make it even harder for male teachers to express affection for students without fear they’ll be accused of misconduct.

 

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Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    In the–far–past, I coached youth soccer (boys, girls, mixed) and worked with youth groups, ditto.
    Wouldn’t go near the situation today.

  2. Certainly, fear of accusations of pedophilia complicate life for teachers/coaches/even relatives. However, I think the rule about never being alone with a student is the one that causes the most trouble. There are many situations where, in order to be sensitive to children’s needs, the teacher needs to have a private conversation with their students.

    People of my generation went all the way through school with no physical contact between teachers and students at all. Teachers figured out other ways to express affection, support, encouragement, etc. I think the only exceptions were when children had injured themselves and needed either first aid or reassurance from an arm around the shoulder.

  3. In 15 years of teaching (at the HS and MS levels) I’ve assiduously avoided physical contact with my students. One can still have warm rapport without it. In our mistrustful climate, I think it’s foolish and unnecessary to risk any physical contract with kids.

    I also never let kids in my classroom after school, except very fleetingly –to drop off an assignment for example. Usually when a kid wants to talk to me after school, I stand at the threshold and talk to her while she’s still outside. If I want to talk to a kid alone during the school day, I’ll do the same thing while class is going on: put the kid just outside the doorway and talk to him in a low voice so that other students cannot hear. Occasionally I’ll arrange with the female teacher next door to allow myself and student needing help to work in her room in her presence. I wish it were otherwise, but a male teacher is not safe when alone with a student.

  4. “People of my generation went all the way through school with no physical contact between teachers and students at all.”

    I guess I’m getting old, because that was my experience as well. I’m not going to say it was good, bad or indifferent, but the lack of contact at that time was not inspired by fears of accusations of sexual abuse. I’ll concede, though, that I didn’t have a male teacher until I was middle school aged.

    “The Jerry Sandusky scandal is going to make it even harder for male teachers to express affection for students without fear they’ll be accused of misconduct.”

    That’s a bit like saying that the Jeff Dahmer scandal is going to make it even harder for people to go hunting and butcher their own meat. Were Sandusky onlly accused of hugging we wouldn’t have anything approximating a scandal.

  5. I graduated high school in 1969, long before the current hysteria, and I don’t remember any physical contact with any of my teachers, male or female, from middle school or high school. There’s no reason for it. (Grade school and kindergarten are different. Little kids need physical affection.) But the notion that a teacher can’t meet privately with a student after class is madness.

  6. Mike Curtis says:

    My classroom is a workplace (9-12 grade math). If you need a hug, call a friend or text somebody who cares. As soon as you open the door to familiarity, you close the door to respect.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      As soon as you open the door to familiarity, you close the door to respect.

      While there’s no doubt some relationship to be found between familiarity and respect in some situations and at certain degrees of intensity, I think it’s safe to say that this blanket assertion is a gross overstatement.

  7. Obi-Wandreas says:

    I generally restrict hugs to graduating students or former students. I do always keep things very professional, but at the same time I have to be conscious of the fact that, for many of my students, I AM the adult male in their life. I won’t get familiar, but I’m not going to be uncaring either.

  8. This post makes it sound like the organizers are overreacting by recommending that the teachers not hug their students.

    But if so many teachers, priests, coaches and other persons in positions of trust had not diddled the kids, such precautions would not be necessary.

    Don’t blame the school boards and organizations. Blame the men who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves – and watch out for the ones who even today simply flout these recommendations in order to press the flesh.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Stephen,

      I think that’s a little too simplistic. Certainly the ultimate blame resides with the diddlers, but I think the reaction has been extreme. I blame Osama bin Laden and his people for heightened concerns about security, but I blame Bush and Congress and a lot of bureaucrats for the “security theater” at airports and the questionably constitutional surveillance of Americans.