8th Grade Student Gets Detention for Hugging Two Friends Goodbye

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson and Heather Nauert," November 7, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, CO-HOST: It's the "Big Issue" tonight. Who wants a hug tonight? I want a hug? No? OK. Not right now. So don't do it, you know why? Because you might get in trouble.

GIBSON: In today's theater of the absurd, a 13-year-old girl is nabbed by the hugging police at her school, her crime? Throwing her arms around the shoulders of a friend to say goodbye. Her punishment, two days of detention.

NAUERT: Two days of detention.

So did the punishment fit the crime or was there a crime committed? "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy reports. You decide.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Heather and John, kids are told hugs not drugs but at this school, even the former is considered a crime, so some say it's another example of school rules run amok.


KENNEDY (voice-over): Maggie Coulter just served two days of detention, but she wasn't caught doing drugs or skipping class.

MEGAN COULTER, GOT DETENTION FOR HUGGING: I just wanted to be nice to my friends, that's all.

KENNEDY: On a Friday, the 13-year-old said goodbye to two other eighth graders she wasn't going to see all weekend. She says she placed one arm around one's shoulder and another lightly around the other's waist, apparently a punishment offense at the middle school in Mascoutah, Illinois.

MEGAN COULTER: I'm upset that I'm being punished for being a nice person. And so I don't understand it.

KENNEDY: And it's not just in Illinois. In Alabama on Monday, a Prattville Junior High school official gave another eighth grader detention for hugging a friend who had just lost a parent, which means of course any student who offers comfort to another is subject to punishment. Megan's father says he was stunned when his daughter told him why she had to stay after class.

DEAN COULTER, MEGAN'S FATHER: Well we contacted them immediately to find out if it truly was for hugging, and we were told that was exactly the — the crime that she had committed.

KENNEDY: (LAUGHTER) So you thought that they couldn't possibly be giving her detention for hugging. It must have been something else.

D. COULTER: Absolutely not. Children have a tendency to sugar coat what they got in trouble for. And that's what we thought she was doing at first.

KENNEDY: In a statement the Mascoutah Shool District, says they were simply following a code of conduct, which prohibits any public displays of affection, "Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved."

Megan's mom says the school is overreacting and says prohibiting PDA should not stop students from hugging hello and goodbye.

MELISSA COULTER, MEGAN'S MOTHER: What is next? You are not going to allow students to high-five, shake hands? Where do we draw the line at what is a public display of attention?

D. COULTER: It seems strange with all the problems we have with our children, affection should not be something that we are against.

KENNEDY: Both parents plan to attend a school board meeting next week to try to change the rule. As for Megan, she says school officials should follow their own advice of hugs, not drugs.

MEGAN COULTER: Maybe they should rethink some of these things that they're punishing kids for.


KENNEDY (on camera): That school board meeting is scheduled to take place November 16, but Megan's father told me administrators are refusing to even call him back, so he is not sure whether they will let him even discuss it. Can you believe it, John and Heather?

GIBSON: The hugging police strike again. Will the schools finally wise up?

KENNEDY: You know, this is the ultimate in control of these students. They are controlling their bodies when it is not even sexual. The next thing they're going to come up with some drug that is for kids who hug too much, Prozac for hugging.

NAUERT: But that's unbelievable that they wouldn't call back the father to discuss it. What's his recourse? To talk to us.

KENNEDY: He couldn't even get them on the phone when he found out his daughter was in trouble and he had to go to the local FOX station.

NAUERT: So he assumes the worst and then he finds this out.

KENNEDY: Then he realizes the school had actually done that.

GIBSON: Doug, give me a hug!

KENNEDY: I want to see you two hug. Come on.

GIBSON: All right. Douglas Kennedy, thanks.Content and Programming Copyright 2007 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.