MARYLAND

Hug ban proposed for St. Mary's County Public Schools

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New rules on the table for some St. Mary's County Public Schools may sound a bit unusual. Among them is a restriction on hugs for those visiting elementary school campuses.

"I don't want anyone to think that in St. Mary's County we don't believe in hugs," said Benjamin Banneker Elementary School Principal Deborah Bowling.

But thanks to the latest proposal for security guidelines at elementary schools in the county it may seem that way.

PTA President Trisha Post explained, "The idea of being on a playground and having somebody come up and hug your children makes some parents uncomfortable."

The school system and the PTA have been discussing ways to keep the system's youngest children safe. Some of the proposals being discussed ban visitors from bringing homemade food or offering hugs to anyone but their own children.

Currently, there is only one way into every school. When you enter, you must sign into a computer that takes your picture, and you must sign out once you've completed your business.

"We have had several incidents where a parent would come in to visit a child and then ends up interacting with a lot of our students," Bowling said.

So parents, principals and administrators have been meeting to come up with an even tighter security policy. Not only have they talked about no hugs and no food, but they've discussed a limit on lunchtime and recess visits, as well as a ban on handing out birthday invitations.

"Sometimes I think they go overboard," said parent Donna Brennan.

But St. Mary's County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Matriano countered, "We want to make certain that our parents know when they send their children to us, they have intrusted us to keep them safe."

The St. Mary's County School Board will review the final recommendations for the new security policy and vote on it before the end of the school year.

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