Breaking the rules ... high fives and hugs under the spotlight.

Breaking the rules ... high fives and hugs under the spotlight.

So now a school in Victoria has banned high fives. Honestly, has the world gone mad? I was sure the announcement last week by Mount Martha Primary School was a very belated April Fools Day joke, but apparently it’s real.

From the SMH:

Sure, occasionally a hug/wrestle turns into a straight wrestle, or a game of chasey gets a bit rough, but that’s just kids being kids 

"Pupils at a Mornington Peninsula primary school have staged a protest on their school oval after they were banned from hugging or giving each other high-fives in a move blasted as "outrageous" and "unbelievable" by parents.

The Year 6 students at Mount Martha Primary School were so disgusted by the new rule that they staged a sit-down protest on the school oval at lunch yesterday before they were moved to the school gym and given a dressing down, parents say.

Parents claim they were not told directly of the new rule, which extended a ban on contact sports to a ban on any physical contact at all, such as playing "tiggy", hugging or giving each other high-fives. They claim the new rule was explained to pupils over the public address system, and students were left to tell their parents.

One parent, Tracey, said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules. The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment, Tracey told radio 3AW."

I’m not the first to say this ban is ridiculous - the Essential Baby forums and talkbalk radio were abuzz with people condemning the decision as a complete overreaction. Showing how farcical it all was, one child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high five, it would have to be an "air high five". You couldn’t make that up!

As one comment suggested "What’s next, banning eye contact in case a child is upset by someone looking at them the wrong way?"

The idea of banning children from the most innocent displays of affection is mad. Watching my six-year-old son and his mates play soccer on the weekend, there were more hugs (well, hugs/wrestles) and physical contact with each other than there was contact with the actual ball. Their obvious affection for each other was a joy to see, and the thought of anything about that being wrong is very sad indeed.

Sure, occasionally a hug/wrestle turns into a straight wrestle or a game of chasey gets a bit rough, but that’s kids being kids. And that’s where a teacher needs to step in and monitor the situation.

Not that this is a critique on teachers. I think the overly strict rules on their acceptable physical contact with students is over the top too. Of course I understand why the regulations have to be there, but it’s another sad indictment on society that it needs to be the case.

When my son started school last year I was struck by the change for him, going from a childcare/early learning centre environment where his teachers could give him a hug if he needed or wanted one, to a school where that was now forbidden. It seemed wrong that a teacher couldn’t comfort a nervous child with a hug, when that gesture is what would come naturally to all of us. A pat on the arm between his elbow and shoulder (which is where I understand is the only acceptable place to touch) just seems so clinical and awkward.

Unfortunately we live in a culture of mistrust now, where those who have abused their own position and harmed children have forced all teachers to be viewed with suspicion. No wonder we have so few male teachers these days, when even a pat on the back in kindness can be misconstrued.

But while that is unfortunate, I guess it’s just how it has to be. The protection of our precious children is paramount and needs to come above all else.

But protecting kids from each other? Well, that’s going way too far.

Mount Martha Principal Judy Beckworth said the practice was introduced after students suffered a number of injuries on the playground in recent weeks. Just have students have been doing, and surviving, since school began.

Isn’t that part of their development? Learning what they can and can’t do, testing their limits, discovering that they can fall down and get up again?

My toddler broke her leg two months ago - she fell awkwardly off the end of a slippery dip and ended up in a leg cast for four weeks. It was annoying, for her and for me. But we both survived with a story to tell and a lesson learned.

Wrapping our kids in cotton wool and protecting them from any kind of harm does them a huge disservice. It prevents them from learning, for themselves, the things we take for granted. It makes it impossible for them to discover the consequences for their actions. And it teaches them that we don’t trust them; that physical affection is wrong and something to be hidden.

Well done to the kids and parents of Mount Martha for standing up to this rule and protesting for it to be overturned. High fives all round.

Do you agree with Amity - was the school out of line in creating this rule? Have your say in the Essential Baby forum.