Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Moron Report #6: Mascoutah Schools

As a fellow educator, I prefer not to lampoon other educators for their lapses in judgment, but sometimes a policy borne out of ignorance and stupidity, as well as the selective enforcement of these rules by paper-pushing bureaucrats who would never be able to make a living in the real world, is such that something has to be done. Meet Alton School District Superintendent David Elson and Mascoutah School District Superintendent Sam McGowen. Keeping all of our children pure as the wind-driven snow is their priority, since they recently decided to allow Mascoutah Middle School Assistant Principal Randy Blakely to enforce a long-standing, district-wide ban on all forms of PDA by punishing a 13 year old girl who, dare the thought, hugged her friends in a non-intimate manner. By all accounts, one of her arms made it around two males and one of her female friends, culminating in the heretical act, demanding a warning, detention, and two-day suspension by the AP.

One of the school district's neighboring superintendents defends such actions by saying, "The policy is to cut down on public displays of affection. It's not an isolated incident...Latitude leads to spotty enforcement of the policy." Superintendent Elson was not finished. No, there are greater issues at stake in the allowance for hugging. "There are kisses and there are kisses...There are hugs and there are hugs. If it's pelvis to pelvis, and it looks like there's some grinding going on, that's just not appropriate in school." Yes, an arm around your friends, that is really grinding the pelvises. Thank God these people were not around when Elvis was in school.

Out of homage to this school district and its totalitarian ways, before posting the rest of the article I am including the contact information for the superintendents involved in this case, so you can tell these sweet and affectionate men what you think of their district's anti-hug-under-the-guise-of-no-pelvis-rub policy.

Anti-Pelvis Thruster Number One

Superintendent: Mr. David Elson (
Phone: 618-474-2600 ext. 601
Fax: 618-463-2126

Here is the super's contact info. in the school district where the hugging bandit was nabbed.

Mascoutah Community School District #19
Superintendent: Sam McGowen (

Students, need a hug? Wait, it might be wrong
By Georgina Gustin
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

— Megan Coulter says they were just innocent hugs, little displays of affection with three of her friends.

But the trio of squeezes landed the Mascoutah Middle School student in detention for violating school district policy.

"It was a simple arm-over-the-shoulder thing. It wasn't even bodies pressing," Megan, 13, said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after finishing the second of two detention sessions. "I knew there was a policy on public displays of affection, but I didn't know you could get into trouble for something as little as a hug. I didn't think it was serious."

About two weeks ago, Megan walked up to a male friend at a football game and embraced him. Moments later Assistant Principal Randy Blakely gave her a warning, telling her the hug violated the district's policy, which says, "Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time."

One incident results in a warning. The second earns students a detention, and a third can result in an in-school suspension.

On Friday, Megan hugged another male friend outside school as students were boarding school buses at the end of the school day. Blakely gave her a detention. Shortly afterward, Megan hugged another friend, this time a girl. Blakely told her again it was a violation of the school policy and gave her another detention, Megan said.

"I thought it was just with boys," she said. "So then I went and hugged Katie, and he said, 'Megan, I've already given you one detention.'"

When Megan went home that afternoon, she told her mother. "She came through the door and said, 'Mom, you're not going to believe this.'" Melissa Coulter said. "I thought there was something else that happened that maybe she didn't tell me about."

Coulter said she planned to bring up the issue at the next School Board meeting.

Superintendent Sam McGowen says hugs are enough to breach the district's policy. "The policy I'm talking about is not anything new," he said. "The policy is to cut down on public displays of affection. It's not an isolated incident. Other students have been disciplined in the past."

McGowen said he inherited the policy when he became superintendent 14 years ago but left it in place because he feels it removes the burden of interpreting the nature of affectionate displays — and whether those displays were welcome — from administrators and teachers.

"We want everybody to know up front what the rules are," he said. "Latitude leads to spotty enforcement of the policy."

Some of McGowen's counterparts in other districts say they agree. "I don't disagree with what Mascoutah did," said Allen Scharf, superintendent at the Millstadt School District. "My personal opinion is that school is for education. And hugging, it's great off school time."

Many school districts don't have policies on public displays of affection, and those that do leave them deliberately vague. That means teachers and administrators are left to decide when a hug or a pat on the back is merely a friendly gesture.

"There are kisses and there are kisses," said David Elson, superintendent of the Alton School District, which does not have a written policy on public displays of affection. "There are hugs and there are hugs. If it's pelvis to pelvis, and it looks like there's some grinding going on, that's just not appropriate in school."

The vagueness of school policy suits most districts well.

"Many of our rules remain vague because I want the ability to interpret them," said Steve Dirnbeck, principal at O'Fallon Township High School. "I've got kids who hug each other all the time, and I don't think anything is meant by it. It's just a need to show affection."

Megan says she's learned her lesson.

"I always see people hugging, so I never thought I could get in so much trouble," she said. "Even today in school, I told people, 'Don't do that!'"

Of course, I am sure Mr. Elson would think differently if the district decided to pass a rule prohibiting all Alton School District employees who are not married to each other from hugging (even during off-hours, like at a football game). Naturally, this would include their closest friends, even of the same gender (hey, they might be another Dumbledore). After all, according to these people it leads to crotch-rubbing good times. Sure, it might be extreme, but we cannot trust anyone, since hugging leads to dry-humping (in spite of the fact I have not rubbed pelvises with anyone I have hugged other than past girlfriends in quite a few years). I would surmise that such a proposal will not make it into code of conduct clause in either Superintendent Elson's or McGowen's next contract negotiations.


Anonymous said...

I am a fifteen year old student at Mascoutah High School and I can honestly say that you got all your information from the media. The girl had been told three times to stop hugging. Furthermore, this is a young girl and she is getting all this attention from the media, of course she is going to try and change her story to make herself look good. Neither you nor I were there, but I can guarantee you it was more than hugging. However, that is beside the point, whether it was more than hugging or not; she was told not to do it multiple times.

TA said...

The media reported this (the warnings), so I'm not sure what you mean. Moreover, the problem with this entire incident is not the warnings, foolish and wrongly enforced though they were (as though public employees have nothing better to do with their time). The real crime is the very policy itself, which by the standards of your district is being imposed to prevent, by the words of your superintendent, sexual activity between students. In other words, you will be suspended for putting one arm around the shoulder of a classmate to prevent, well, you know what. This is like preventing theft by sawing off your students' hands. It's beyond overkill. You treat the problem where it is at, and the problem is not hugging. It is in the bureaucrats that masquerade as educators who publicly brag about having broadly defined rules, so they can abuse their positions of authority to punish people for the slightest forms of human behavior that by all accounts are innocent and in the real world perfectly legal.

If Mr. Blakely enjoys enforcing these rules so much, he should practice what he preaches and be subjected to retroactive punishment for all of his own displays of PDA during his teenage years. We'll even be nice and give him a few warnings. I can guarantee you at that point your school district's attitude about open-ended rules to punish for hugging, as a means to prevent "pelvis to pelvis grinding," as opposed to, say, punishing people for actual pelvis grinding, will come to an end.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you are mistaken. After speaking to the specified girl in question, there was definitely a "little" more than hugging going on. Besides this fact, after getting in trouble for making out in the hallway, she merely hugged her friend because she was distraught at being suspended, that was not why she got in trouble. And even besides that, she had been warned before about the PDA no KISSING rule at Mascoutah. If further consolation is needed that YOU ARE ALLOWED TO HUG AT MASCOUTAH, I walk down the halls with my friend with our hands around the other's shoulders and hug all the time. All staff are fine with it.

TA said...

According to your assistant principle, her "little more than hugging" constituted, by his own admission, the girl putting one arm around a friend (not "kissing" or "pda"). In fact, the whole point of the district banning the act of hugging is to, in their words, pre-empt the possibility that you would, God forbid, kiss or commit copious acts of pda.

I find it ironic that you first claim, falsely I might add, that the media never reported the multiple warnings (even though it was contained in the very story I posted on the message), only to come back and demur that it was really something more--when putting your arm around someone's shoulder is now being reconstituted as a "little more than hugging." Moreover, whether you like it or not, your district has an anti-hugging policy, so it is not a matter of opinion. It is a district-wide, openly enforced policy. Whether or not it is widely enforced is another matter (the average teacher in the school might interpret things differently than Mr. Blakely), but I'm certain if you printed your name and we contacted your vice principle and informed him that you're hugging people on school property (and that furthermore, there's no rule against it), you'll quickly discover how wrong you are.