BEND, Ore. – Public displays of affection are against the rules at Sky View Middle School (search) in Bend, and 14-year-old Cazz Altomare found that out the hard way.
She got detention earlier this year after hugging her boyfriend in the hallway as he headed to lunch and she went to gym class.
Her mother, Leslee Swanson, was infuriated by the punishment — in fact, when she went to pick her daughter up from detention, she gave her a good, hard hug.
"I'm trying to understand what's wrong with a hug," said Swanson, 42.
But administrators said such policies are standard-issue at middle schools across the country.
"Really, all we're trying to do is create an environment that's focused on learning, and learning proper manners is part of that," said Dave Haack, the principal of Cascade Middle School (search), also in Bend. "This is not us being the romance police."
Students only end up with detention after repeated warnings, he said.
Outside Pilot Butte Middle School (search) on a recent lunch break, two seventh-grade girls said they disagreed with the school's policies.
"I think we should be able to hold hands or hug at least," Annie Wilson, 12, told The Bulletin in Bend. "Because it's not doing anything bad."
Others are more in favor of the rule, like Christina Barackman, 13, also a Pilot Butte seventh-grader.
"I think they're nice to keep boundaries for kids," she said.
Schools need to define and actively teach what they do want to see in student behavior, said Rob Horner, a University of Oregon (search) professor who works with schools across the nation on "building social culture that supports effective learning."
"To say 'no hugging' really blows it," Horner said. "That's exactly the sort of trap that, as soon as you say that, what is the first thing everyone is going to want to do?"
At home after school on a recent afternoon, Cazz, the Sky View student, described the no-hug rule as "dumb."
"Hugging is like a sign of affection," she said.
Her mother has told her that if she likes Sky View and wants to stay at the school, she'll have to abide by the rules.
But Swanson, the mother, said she wonders if a hugging ban would fly in a more metropolitan place.
For her, this is a politically charged issue.
"The more people blindly accept these fundamental rights being taken away from them, the easier it becomes for them to be taken away," Swanson said.