Hand Holding Ban, No Touch Play and the Real Story

Dramatic headlines. Followed by a juicy sound-bite about small children forbidden to hug or even push their friends on the swings. Set up a camera across the street to film kids playing.

Et voila – a sensational story that goes viral in hours!

Of course, the real story. And the facts. And the true intentions of a diligent staff. Not so entertaining.

I’m a blogger myself, so… mea culpa, mea culpa. Sometimes we hear something that tweaks a rant we’ve had brewing deep inside and it seems like such a Great Opportunity to say something outraged and amusing important, we jump on it and gloss over the nuances.

Now I’m on the other side.

The purpose of the temporary no-contact rule was never to ban all touching amongst five-year-olds forever, nor to create an oppressive, over-protective atmosphere. It was simply to get a handle on an overly rough dynamic amongst one small group, so they can return to normal playground fun without injuries and fear. In the meantime, the kindergarten teachers are out there with them, hands-on, teaching appropriate touch, boundaries and respect.

play

This is something the staff felt was necessary. Would I handle it that way? I have no idea. But I’m not a kindergarten teacher. Parenting 1 or 2… or even 4 kids isn’t the same as managing a classroom and building a positive culture within it. They could just say “kids-will-be-kids,” shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye. Instead they’re taking their job seriously. Whether you agree or disagree with their methods, I know that they care about the children and are doing their best.

You see, unlike all the other reporters and bloggers and opinion writers out there, I know Coghlan. I know the staff. This is my school. That’s me, and my children, walking in the front door on the local news last night.

The real story here is how quick we are to turn on the people who are educating our children. They don’t teach for the fame, prestige and huge paychecks, they do it because they love children and believe in education. As parents, it’s our job to back them up. And if they send a letter that is unclear, if they seem to be overreacting, if we don’t agree with their approach to a particular problem, it’s our job to talk to them, to clarify and find a solution. Not to bring in the media. Not to mock, belittle and misrepresent their efforts. No matter how sensational the headline.

I know the parents who were outraged by the letter that was sent home. They’re good parents, good people, and they’re trying to look out for their kids. They reacted to an admittedly poorly worded letter. Somehow the media heard about it and the whole situation snowballed into this ridiculous circus. Frankly, I blame a slow news week. This has only hurt people. It hasn’t helped anything.

We teach our children, when they have a problem, to go directly to that person and work it out. That’s how community works. We’re also teaching them to respect their teachers and the rules, even the ones they dislike. And if they ever have to keep their hands to themselves for a couple of weeks, it won’t be the end of the world.

After all, it’s a refrain my kids have heard from my lips on occasion. When things get out of hand on long road trips, we institute our own no-contact rule until everyone can regain some self-control. My parents did the same thing. I seem to be psychologically intact.

Coghlan is a wonderful school. Not a perfect school, but a wonderful one.

Too bad that’s not a sexy story.

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About So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

I'm a bookworm, nature lover, kick-boxer, candy fiend, sci fi geek, home body, progressive Christian and part-time student. I love my crazy life and the messy, fun, stubborn, silly, brilliant people who populate it. View all posts by So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

36 responses to “Hand Holding Ban, No Touch Play and the Real Story

  • karen Smith

    Well said Christie! I love your spin and perspective on all of the day to day (and sometimes not so much) issues in our or our loved ones lives… I can relate to many of them and sometimes cry but mostly laugh and continue on my day saying Wow! ~Someone else gets it or I never thought of things that way! You go sister & thanks for keeping things real! xox

  • Melissa

    I’m posting a link to your blog to kidsinvictoria.com (a local Victoria, BC parents forum) to show another perspective. I know parents who send their children to this school and are backing the administration 100%.

  • Bob Johnston

    I call Bullshit! If this was their intention, then they are incompetent when it comes to communicating with parents. No push? Fine. No hand holding or hugging? Come on now! And, why did the principal refer questions to the SBO? If it was a staff decision, she could have simply explained. There is something fishy in the state of Denmark here. Just sayin.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      Obviously we disagree. I do think the letter was poorly worded and didn’t explain the situation well. I’m sure if she or any of the teachers involved has been approached to explain/defend the policy they would have done so. Unfortunately, they weren’t given that chance. Disgruntled parents spoke only to the press. Once the press is involved the school staff are obligated to bring in the higher ups.

      What we do agree on, is that this situation could have been easily resolved with a simple explanation.

    • drosboro

      Two things – no hand-holding or hugging, because these are Kindergarteners, not high-school students. Kindergarteners don’t always pick up on the subtle distinctions between “ok” and “not okay” play. “But I was just holding his hand” as a kid is getting dragged around the playground seems like the likely response from a 5-year-old.

      As for the referral to the School Board Office – I don’t know about your workplace, but the last couple I’ve had have had standing policies that say “If the media comes knocking, refer all requests to the Media Liaison. Don’t speak to the media yourself”. Seems quite possible that Langley has the same policy, and this was NOT the principal’s decision to make.

    • Ewa

      I’ve read the letter, but apparently most people (including media) did not. It specifically said “hands on play” was banned, and then proceeded to list examples which included game of tag, hand holding, imaginary games involving sword fights, etc. (I am not quoting directly because I do not have the letter in front of me). The hand-holding was in there only as it pertains to hands on play. There was no mention of an outright ban on touching and nowhere in the letter was hugging mentioned. The media run with this idiotic story, and sensationalized it beyond recognition. Most Lowermainland schools have a hands-off policy. It’s nothing new. I don’t know the school, or any person involved with it, but I was not about to judge without knowing the facts. My guess whoever included the “hand holding” phrase in that letter is wishing they never did.

      Great job for writing this Christi! I don’t know you, but I want you to know that not everyone blindly made assumptions and swallowed what the media was feeding them.

  • Melanie

    Thanks for writing this. Slow news week indeed.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you so much for writing this. Too often this perspective is overshadowed by sensationalism and angry, misguided rants that infect the internet. To Bob, the reason why the media was referred to the LSB is because of policy and any media contact has to go through the school board first. As the blogger was stating, people are always too quick to blame the front line staff of various policies that are in place.

  • Teri Johnson

    As a retired kindergarten teacher, I am afraid I do not agree with the handling of the incident (s) at Coghlan school. I had years when I had rowdy groups, but there are other ways to handle it than just banning touch. I appreciate your letter and your point of view, but it is the extremity of the reaction by the school, not by the media, that blew this out of proportion. Handled within the group, not the whole Kindergarten(s) and you would not have had the media attention.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      As a kindergarten teacher I’m sure you had parents disagree with your methods. I hope the showed you the respect due you by taking the matter up with you personally, or at least your principal and not airing their grievances to the press. I don’t disagree that mistakes were made in the wording of the letter sent home.

      I can’t even speak to the efficacy of their method, since I am not in this classroom, but the situation is being misrepresented far and wide. I’m sure you’ll agree that teachers have a difficult job. They aren’t perfect, but even if we disagree they still deserve to be treated with respect, not villified and publicly attacked without warning.

  • rachel joy

    I’ve had a temporary no-touch rule with my own kids at home – many times, several times a day even! But that’s at home and I get to be the parent, teacher AND principal … so no comparison at all to your situation. 🙂 But … I hear what you’re saying and it’s so very unfortunate that such a big deal has come of this. Lots of lessons learned for many people involved, it seems.

  • Chris Gauvin

    When I first read the headline I felt outrage to, but then I read the whole article and the short sentence that gave the reason for the staff decision. It is important recognize that sometimes a situation or behaviour has to be reduced to black and white (such as no contact at all) so that the grey area can be reintroduced in an appropriate way so that all of the kids feel safe at the school. Kids at this age are a lot more concrete in their understanding and may need a more structured way of understanding what is appropriate touching. I hope that their strategy is successful and the kids are back to holding hands and hugging soon.

  • Meagan H.

    Thank you, Thank you for writing this, I knew there had to be more to this story that an “insane leftwing attempt to stamp out all human contact from our children and scar them for life” or “laziness on the part of the staff who just don’t want to properly supervise the students.” There is alot of angry sentiment out there, and I think the media reports are poorly portraying the reality of the situation in order to drive this kind of response. It’s so sad that instead of respecting and supporting our teachers, they are now under siege from the media and people all across Canada who don’t know the real situation.

    I guess less people would watch a news show that said, “School takes temporary measure to ensure it’s youngest students have time to learn about safe and appropriate forms of play in the early weeks/months of their first school year!!”

    My kindergardener is still learning about how it’s not ok to Hug your friends to the ground (aka wrestling) and that just because you’re holding someones hand doesn’t mean they want to go in the same direction you’re going. It’s a learning curve for everyone, parents and kids. I’m sad that a well intentioned, but poorly implemented measure has been blown so far out of proportion.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      I think you sum it up nicely – well intentioned but poorly implemented. A simple miscommunication becomes a virtual witch hunt. My 3-year-old is still aggressively affectionate and I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggles in this area in kindergarten. Not because he’s mean or cruel, simply because he doesn’t know his own strength, has trouble reading social cues and has to be reminded to respect other people’s boundaries. I hope the teachers are as diligent to coach him as they have been here. Just maybe explain it better in the letter home. 😉

  • Joanne

    I heard the principal in a long (about 5-7 minute) interview the other day on CBC’s On The Coast and she said pretty much the same thing as many of the news stories: kids couldn’t hold hands because some times they don’t do it well, they couldn’t play tag, no touching at all. She did say it was a temporary measure but she didn’t have an end-date or a picture of what things would look like that would make her think it was time to change the policy.

    It sounded like too big a response on the school’s (or perhaps just the principal’s) part to what were likely genuine issues.

    This was no media spin, as it was the principal answering questions and being allowed to give long, in depth responses. And it didn’t come across as teaching some kids reasonable boundaries; it came across as no touching for kids in the school because that’s how kids can get hurt.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      CBC has had the most balanced coverage I’ve seen so far. Spin is inevitable in the questions they do and do not ask. That said, my beef is with those spinning tales of children punished severely for hugging a friend, how it will lead to a ban on moving, breathing… There are some very inflammatory, misleading articles out there.

      Since I actually know these staff members, the children and parents… since I’m actually there each day, please trust me that this is a warm and caring school environment, nothing like what is being portrayed.

      Yes, there has been poor communication. I’m confident a simple discussion with concerned parents would have diffused the situation. They’ve been respectful and helpful when I’ve gone to them, even when I’ve disagreed with something.

      As of Tuesday, hands on play is being reintroduced slowly.

  • Marty

    All other points aside you “blame a slow news week”?!
    Rob Ford alone would have been enough to say that this has been an unusually entertaining news week.
    This makes good news even un-hyped. It’s just another example of the nanny-state, safety overdosed and liability paranoid culture that we live in. Even if it is a bit overblown, people are getting annoyed and with good cause.

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      Out here in B.C. Toronto’s mayor and his shocking behaviour does not qualify as “local news.” That’s where this started.

      I agree that people are annoyed. Some have an axe to grind. So when they see something like this, they don’t try to clarify, they don’t look deeper or try to find a reasonable explanation – they let it feed their outrage.

      This isn’t about a philosophy. This is about real people, their reputation, their hard work… It’s easy to sit far away and criticize someone you never have to meet. So that’s what so many do, not thinking about the people being hurt by it. The world isn’t made up of good guys and bad guys – and if it was, our kindergarten teachers wouldn’t be the villains. They don’t deserve the abusive comments, the mocking, the disrespect from people who don’t even know them. Even if you disagree with them.

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