Amanda Balmer

No-hug rule at Mackay North High

MACKAY North State High School has implemented a policy of banning hugs between students - an offence punishable by detention.

A 14-year-old Year 9 student was given detentions last week when she was seen embracing an upset female friend.

Her mother said she was in disbelief.

“It was after the bell had rung but the teacher told her it was on school grounds so it wasn't allowed,” the mother said.

Another Year 9 student was given a detention after she also gave a fellow student a hug earlier this week.

“I couldn't believe it. She came home and told me she went to detention because she was hugging a friend at school,” the girl's mother said.

“So my daughter had to sit during the lunch break and write 'personal displays of affection are not allowed' over and over again.”

Other concerned Mackay North High parents thought the ban was ridiculous and could not see any problems with the simple act of embracing a friend.

“It's bulls..t. If they want to hug they can hug. If it's just a hug it's all good,” Brad Edwardes said.

Another parent Donna Madam said, “Unless they are getting down and dirty what is the problem.”

Parents and Citizens Association member Brian Saxby said the ban on hugs was in place as part of the school's behaviour management policy, rules which were designed to protect students and staff.

“At present the school does have a behaviour management policy that is actively enforced by the P and C,” Mr Saxby said.

“It is part of the policy. If people put themselves at risk things may be viewed in certain ways. Hugs can be interpreted differently by different people and hugs can be wanted and unwanted, so the school and the P and C just need to be cautious in this day and age in that area.”

Principal Shelley Lewis refused to comment on the issue and referred the Daily Mercury to the Department of Education.

Yesterday afternoon a department spokesperson said the decision had been made at the school level but there was no Education Queensland policy that banned hugging in schools.

“Mackay North State High School has determined that unwanted or unnecessary physical contact, which in some circumstances can include hugging, is inappropriate playground behaviour.

“However, hugging can be considered appropriate when the act offers compassion and/or comfort between two students.”

The spokesperson said individual schools determined what disciplinary action was taken against students in line with their school's responsible behaviour plan.

However, later last night, another spokesperson contacted the Daily Mercury and said the Department of Education's Mackay-Whitsunday regional executive director, Wayne Butler, had directed the school to urgently review its policy.

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