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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 05/26/2010

When teens get too affectionate at school

By Valerie Strauss

Maybe it’s the advent of spring, or the promise of prom, but more students are engaging in public displays of affection at school--and it isn’t only the adults in the building who are getting embarrassed and annoyed.

In Maryland, New York, Minnesota, and other states, students are complaining that the very public behavior of some young couples in love, or in lust, as it were, is just plain inappropriate, and, sometimes, repulsive.

“Students shouldn’t have to tolerate their fellow students making out against a wall before class, nibbling each others’ earlobes before lunch, or clotting up the hallways by walking s-l-o-w-l-y with fingers entwined,” a group of students from Marshall High School in Marshall, Minn., wrote in a letter to the Independent, a local newspaper.

“Everywhere you look, couples are walking around Goshen High School holding hands, hugging and kissing,” New York high school student Katherine Petrizzo wrote this month in the student newspaper, the Goshen Spectrum.

“To some people, these gestures may seem cute, but to others, they seem repulsive,” she wrote. “...It grosses out many students to see a couple sticking their tongues down each other’s throats. Not to mention, it is rude and disrespectful to other students and teachers who have to watch.”

At Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., blogger Melanie Goldberg wrote in the latest edition of the online student newspaper, Black & White, that such behavior is no longer cute but has “turned into a nauseating and common occurrence for students.”

“Walking by couples playing tonsil hockey can be an uncomfortable daily ritual, prompting mixed emotions,” she wrote. “There’s denial (don’t look, don’t look), shock (are they even allowed to do that in the hallway?), incredulity (It’s like he’s giving her vertical CPR), anger (get a room!) and sadness (why am I so alone?).”

Such behavior is no longer witnessed in the hallways.

“These days, there’s more action in the cozy cafeteria booths than there was at the Homecoming dance,” she wrote. “PDA participants, instead of parading your infatuation around the lunchroom, take a cue from the freshmen at football games and take it to the woods behind the tennis courts.”

At Findlay High School in Ohio, the issue became a full-fledged controversy last month when students staged “a hug-in” to protest disciplinary action taken against two students for public displays of affection, according to Bowling Green State University's independent student press, BG News.

Though students said the couple was only hugging, the principal finally released a statement, saying that the two students had “engaged in activity that was far more than hugging and considered to be more serious than simply PDA.”

Then, last Monday, the Findlay Board of Education felt the need to clarify its policy for public displays of affection. Good news: Hugging is now allowed.

By the way, PDAs are problems in middle school, too.

At the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Middle School in Ravena, N.Y., officials just instituted a ban on hugging and hand holding, and alerted parents about it in an email, according to the Times Union of Albany.

“According to the electronic missive," the story said, "students also cannot hug from the side, back or ‘any other way,’ nor can they hold hands.,,,,Other touching deemed inappropriate, according to the e-mail, includes nipple twisting, belly slapping, pinching, pulling and playing with another’s hair.”

At Marshall, students recently took a survey about PDA and 70 percent of the students who responded said that they felt there was altogether too many public displays of affection or "everything from hands to groping," according to the Independent.

So, where do you think the line should be drawn?

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 26, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Health, High School  | Tags:  PDA and high school, PDA policies, PDA policies and school, PDAs at school, ban on hugs, high school bans PDA, middle school bans hugs, public displays of affection  
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The problem with PDAs and the problem with "sexting" are connected. Kids today have absolutely no concept of privacy. I've had them ask, in the middle of a lesson, "Are you married? How old are you? If you're not married, do you have a boyfriend?" I once gently told one girl that my age was private, and she said, "You're pretty grumpy today." At another job, a co-worker was reprimanded for looking at some pay records that were left out on a desk (she talked about them in a way that indicated she had turned several pages, not just happened to see the first page). She couldn't understand what she had done wrong, and when the manager told her it was like reading somebody's mail, she told him in her family whoever got the mail opened all of it.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 27, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Then there's the fact that most PDA's are motivated by a desire to show off and/or display power. There's every reason to prevent kids from one-upping each other this way.

Posted by: jane100000 | May 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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