Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Public Displays of Affection at School

My school used to have a problem with blatant public displays of affection. Students were mauling themselves in the halls, and teachers felt powerless to do anything about. Then along came a new teacher to the school, who stopped it in its tracks.

Yes, I was that new teacher.

I started calling students on their inappropriate conduct, and I'm not talking about a short hug and/or kiss when dropping the significant other off at their classroom door. No, these kids were going at it.

So when I was approached by the student editors of the school paper and asked to write an op-ed on a topic of my choosing, I chose PDA. Instead of preaching, though, I thought I'd try a more effective means of communication: satire.

I entitled my piece, "A Modest Proposal." And just like Johnathan Swift was (verbally) pilloried for his over-the-top solution to the problem of poor and hungry children in Ireland, so was I attacked for my writing. Of course, being a writer of satire and all, I never really expected that we'd have a sex room on campus. I sure got people talking, though.

And the problem, as I saw it, ended almost overnight. If nothing else, I allowed other teachers to see that it was ok to call students on inappropriate behavior. Yes, there were attempted consequences, but part of the agreement "ending hostilities" between me and my principal was a gag order--I'm not allowed to tell you the outcome, except to say that I'm extremely satisfied with it. Take from that what you will.

So when I came across this CNN.com article about PDA, I thought it would make an interesting addition to my blog. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks there are some reasonable boundaries regarding making out in public.

"In moderation, and in the right venue, they're fine. Assuming that one half of the couple isn't leaving for a two-year deep-space mission, I'll say that any PDA beyond the hand-holding, arm-around-the-waist, closed-mouth-kiss type is out of order," says Charles Purdy, aka "Mr. Social Grace," a Vancouver, British Columbia-based etiquette columnist and author of "Urban Etiquette: Marvelous Manners for the Modern Metropolis."

"Extreme PDA -- hands under clothes, deep tongue kissing -- just makes the couple look incredibly immature or, possibly, drunk," Purdy adds. In other words: keep it PG-rated, kids. Don't do anything you wouldn't want your mother to see.

Excellent call, Mr. Purdy. Did you catch that, everyone? It makes you look immature, like you can't control yourself. Don't do it in public. Mr. Purdy says not to do anything you wouldn't want your mother to see; I agree with that, and suggest that you not do anything in public that you don't see your parents doing in public.

Want to hear about some real immaturity? Well, it comes from some junior high school students, so what would you expect? Apparently at one school, "hugging lines" were all the rage.

If you need a hug, you won't get it at Percy Julian Middle School. Principal Victoria Sharts banned hugging among the suburban Chicago school's 860 students anywhere inside the building. She said students were forming "hug lines" that made them late for classes and crowded the hallways.

"Hugging is really more appropriate for airports or for family reunions than passing and seeing each other every few minutes in the halls," Sharts said.
Way to go, Ms. Sharts. Not only are you letting the students know that their behavior is not appropriate at school, you're telling them when and where it might be more appropriate. Excellent. Contrast that with my school's administrators of a few years ago, who refused even to acknowledge that there was an issue.

There's a reason modesty is a social grace. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine that reason! (There's the math teacher in me, shining through.)


Darren said...

I made a boo-boo and posted a title without a story, and EllenK commented on it before I had a chance to correct it. I'm deleting that mistaken post and copying EllenK's comment here.

Ellen K said...

If this is the story I think you are referring to, it is actually in the Keller ISD, three districts over from me. I actually think it may be a case of where there is smoke, there is fire. And by that I mean, some kids were probably caught doing more than holding hands, therefore all such activities were banned. I admit, it drives me nuts to see kids hanging all over each other in the hall. There is such a thing as a time and place and school isn't it. Plus in high school we have the additional issues with gender preferences. I have broken up a couple of fights caused when students took offense to two girls making out in the hall. Frankly, kids had simply better learn that school is like a workplace. And if you get to "handy" in the workplace, you could get slapped with a very expensive harrassment suit. I know it sounds cold, but with the types of things many of these kids watch on TV, they don't need anymore touchyfeely activities to keep their hormones racing.

Ellen K said...

And I just thought it was a do it yourself blog....lol.

askthehomediva said...

Loved your post…As long as there are teenagers with hormones, PDA will always be a problem that teachers must address. I agree with you that we need to go beyond the "Don't do anything that you wouldn't want your mother to see" because it's amazing nowadays the things that mothers don't mind seeing. But to include: don't do anything you wouldn't want to see your parents do in public, well, that should do the trick because, quite frankly, for most kids, that's an image they really don't ever want to have. Great job!

Anonymous said...


You didn't post your orginal op ed?

Darren said...

No, I didn't. However, it was called A Modest Proposal, and it might still be available online. Apparently, when the school administration (illegally, here in CA) withheld distribution of the papers, some newspaper students published the op-ed on their personal web sites. As I say so often: ah, those wily teenagers!

Anonymous said...

i think PDA should be allowed.
so what if were teenagers?
im sure a lot of people dont like seeing college kids do it but they allow it and they wont allow it in HS? i hug all my friends, and with PDA against the rules i say PHOOEY !

Darren said...

I'm sure there are lots of things you *want* to do, but that doesn't mean they should be tolerated. In theory, if you learn when young that mauling each other in public is poor form, you won't be mauling each other in public as college students.

Anonymous said...

it's hugging! sometimes a kiss!
its not like we're ripping off our clothes in the middle of the halls, and it is not like we ever will. sometimes you just have to show affection.
and some of us could care less about what you think.

Darren said...

The immaturity displayed in the last comment is indicative of why you need limits imposed upon you, because you will not impose them upon yourself. The only think missing in the last comment was a "nyah nyah nyah NYAH nyah."

Anonymous said...

well , you obviously dont understand. adults have different views on situations than teenagers.
and i am 34 years of age,
please, spare yourself a spit of breath
dont refer me or my words as 'immature'

as a wise man once said-
"i walk the line"

Darren said...

I understand all too well. I understand that we do some things in private and some things in public. I *need* to take a pee, but I don't do it in public. You don't *need* to dry hump someone, especially in public.

See? I walk that line, too.

Anonymous said...

as a math teacher myself i am shocked by the terms you used in that last comment.

the immaturity displayed in that last comment of yours darren,
makes me rethink the quote my father told me when i was a son-
"chase dem skirts."

Darren said...

Are you saying you don't understand the difference between a physical need and a "like to do"? And what does your father's quote mean, in this context--that he didn't teach you appropriate public behavior? Because that's how I interpret your comment.

Anonymous said...

the last few words my father sputtered before he took his life,

"chase dem skirts"

clearly refers to the old proverb "life is what you make it"

and of course i know the difference between a 'like to do' and a need.
the difference is clearly in the age supplement supplied by the high school itself.

Anonymous said...

lmfao :]

steveizsup said...

I'm really surprised to see all these comments made by adult. I, as a teenage think that it is extremely inappropriate and disrespectful to your fellow peer and adults. We feel the need to show affection towards our partners but people can always pick a private corner not in the middle of the damn hallway. I think PDA should be "regulated" by schools. And it should also stand for "Please Don't Announce!"

Darren said...

But, but Steve! How can you control this!? It's hormones, it's natural! Who are we as adults to teach students how to behave appropriately in public?!

Sarcasm now *off*.

Of course I agree with you, and thank you for adding your comments.

Anonymous said...

Got a problem, don't look. There should be limits, but sometimes people have sticks up their butts!

Darren said...

Do you say the same thing to flashers?

We agree there should be limits. Now let's talk about what those limits should be.

Anonymous said...

my school has , in my opinion gotten a little to strict. I looked up the PDA rules in the student hand book and there is a paragraph on PDA thats all. It simply states that "the administration request no prolonged or excessive PDA's" and yet i got in trouble for sitting next to my boyfriend with our knees touching. my best friend got kicked out of the only place supplied for kids to go when we don't have class, for her boyfriend having his arm around her while they were both doing reading.
I might not be a 30 some odd year-old math teacher, but i still have an valid opinion. i agree that there should be limits but to regulate it so that we cant show the slightest bit of affection is

Darren said...

My rule of thumb remains: if you don't want to see your parents do it in public, you shouldn't do it in public.

DarkBard said...

I agree with anonymous that to get in trouble for holding your significant other in public or casual touching is excessive. I understand no extreme but to ban casual affection in my opinion is to set up a statement that it is bad to show affection at all in public. If that's the case lets make it illegal for anyone from doing it. No hugging or kissing anyone outside your own home. (with curtains closed because someone might try to get that banned also) No parents hugging or kissing their kids if its not inside their own home. P.S. If my parents kissed (casual kiss or hugged in public I wouldn't care one bit)I'd be like we'll I guess maybe they love each other, awesome.