January 25, 2021
Nonconsensual Touching in Elementary Schools: aka Hugging
I write to address the proliferation and encouragement of intentional nonconsensual touching that is not legally justified that has become pervasive in elementary schools…hugs. Daily, young children are hugged in hallways and classrooms across the country. While you might consider such activity benign, it is far from it under the examination of consent and common law.
Consent is the voluntary, informed and freely given agreement to participate in mutually agreed-upon acts. Modern courts have consistently ruled that young children do not have the ability to consent. Meaning…children do not have the legal ability to consent to a hug (intentional touching). Parents/guardians are left to determine what is appropriate and most of the time parents/guardians are not present to give their children permission for such encounters. I have never seen a permission slip for hugging…although, I would be interested to see how such a slip would hold up in court. Regardless, hugs (intentional nonconsensual touching) cannot be legally justified. Therefore, the nonconsensual physical encounters that we have long called benign…are often illegal…and universally problematic.
In a world of hidden dangers, elementary schools have a duty to protect young children. In fact, if a school does not protect children it is not a school…protection is that fundamental to what a school is. There is no perfect way to recognize who children need to be protected from. In fact, it’s probably impossible…ie a pervert is obviously not going to introduce their self as a pervert. What we don’t know should instruct the precautions that we take. Do you know who is hugging your children? We must assume that hugs (intentional nonconsensual touching that is not legally justified) cannot be safe. It seems reckless to start from any other place.
*While this article was written with elementary schools in mind, there are obvious places of a variety of spaces.