Eighth Grader in Florida Disciplined For Giving Hug To Friend At School

MANSUR_SarahElla Fishbough, 14, is now an eighth grader with a record. Ella was given suspension by Jackson Heights principal Sarah Mansur-Blythe (left) for a hug. That’s right. She hugged a friend who was having a bad day and was immediately reported for discipline under a hopelessly undefined prohibition on “inappropriate or obscene acts.” As with the other story today of the student suspended for playing Power Rangers, this is a case of blind application of rules without any sense of judgment or fairness. It is part of the zero tolerance culture that has taken hold in our schools.

The district’s code of conduct prohibits “inappropriate or obscene acts” including “unwelcome or inappropriate touching, or any other physical act that is considered to be offensive, socially unacceptable or not suitable for an educational setting.” That of course tells students virtually nothing and allows teachers to adopt any and all possible interpretations of inappropriate touchings. Such an ill-defined rule could just as well say “you can be punished at the discretion of school officials for any act that they deem inappropriate.”

Hugging was banned with other specific acts like kissing, linking arms, and holding hands. I can understand the ban on kissing, though hugging is a common act of friendship. The school is giving this act a presumed sexual meaning and creating a hyper-sensitive environment for these students.

They are all treated as banned “PDA” or Public Displays of Affection. Ella turns out to be a recidivist. She was previously given a PDA after the same boy put a hand on her head. She was listed in the notice as a repeat offender with a “second PDA.”

Jackson Heights principal Sarah Mansur-Blythe has insisted that the PDA rule will continue to be strictly enforced — even in the case of family members. When asked if two family members hugged, Mansur-Blythe reportedly insisted that they would still get a PDA. The obvious illogic of the rule seems not to concern Mansur-Blythe. It simply does not matter. Forgive the pun, but ignorance is Blythe.

Schools are following suit across the country in disciplining students who hug like Megan Coulter, an Illinois eighth-grader, in 2007 who was also a repeat hugger with two brief hugs spotted on school grounds.

Once again, my greatest concern is the teaching that students must accept arbitrary and capricious authority. Here the administrator reportedly pledged to enforce the rule without any logic or discretion against members of the same family. It is not the danger of raising cold and detached students that concern me. It is the danger of raising thoughtless and detached citizens that concern me.

64 thoughts on “Eighth Grader in Florida Disciplined For Giving Hug To Friend At School”

  1. The Principal needs to be fired. Period. The parents need to stand up for the kids here. Is this school in Floriduh? Maybe parents can’t stand up in Floriduh.

  2. The emphasis on whatever someone in authority describes as “inappropriate” behavior (such as hugging,
    which children and adults see on exhibition during every professional and college football game) stems from the vagueness of another word: “uncomfortable,” especially as it relates to sexual harassment issues.
    My employment on a college faculty was twice terminated in unique circumstances. In the second instance, the campus CEO denounced my hugging a student (but who ignored the many times the student initiated a hug with me) was later shown on television hugging the male dean who replaced her. I have just completed a book manuscript recounting the absurdity of unethical administrative indecency. As the late Joan Rivers often asked, “Can we talk?”
    Doug Giebel

  3. They could reason through for example the various labels on a grocery store shelf but became frustrated and overwhelmed when tasked to decide which item to buy.

    HA HA HA

    That is what my husband says when I send him to the store with some vague instructions. Like get a can of tomatoes.

    Him. “What kind? Stewed, chopped, crushed, salted, low salt, creole, spanish, whole tomatoes? What size?!?!? Which brand!!!! For God’s sake be specific. I’m standing in the store like a drooling moron staring at cans of tomatoes.”

    He said, if you don’t tell me what you want I’m gonna buy one of each and bring home 15 cans of tomatoes. LOL He is right. So. Now I specifically state all the requirements in great detail. It makes life easier when we communicate effectively.

    1. DBQ – I have been in your husband’s situation. It does make any difference what decision we make it will be wrong. My wife is now very specific about directions for products, if she wants a specific product. No telling what I will bring back. 😉

  4. Moron why we’re called Floriduh; and epitomizes why MoreOn women should not be promoted to positions of higher authority!

  5. Tinker case:

    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that defined the constitutional rights of students in U.S. public schools. The Tinker test is still used by courts today to determine whether a school’s disciplinary actions violate students’ First Amendment rights.


    1 Background of the case
    1.1 Legal precedents and issues
    2 The Court’s decision
    2.1 Majority opinion
    2.2 Dissents
    3 Subsequent jurisprudence
    4 See also
    5 References
    6 External links

    Background of the case

    In 1965, Des Moines, Iowa residents John F. Tinker (15 years old), his siblings Mary Beth Tinker (13 years old), Hope Tinker (11 years old), and Paul Tinker (8 years old), along with their friend Christopher Eckhardt (16 years old) decided to wear black armbands to their schools (high school for John and Christopher, junior high for Mary Beth, elementary school for Hope and Paul) in protest of the Vietnam War and supporting the Christmas Truce called for by Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The principals of the Des Moines schools learned of the plan and met on December 14 to create a policy that stated that school children wearing an armband would be asked to remove it immediately. Violating students would be suspended and allowed to return to school after agreeing to comply with the policy. The participants decided to violate this policy. Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt were suspended from school for wearing armbands on December 16 and John Tinker was suspended for doing the same on the following day. (The two youngest participants were not punished.) Mary Beth, Christopher, and John were suspended from school until after January 1, 1966, when their protest had been scheduled to end.

    A suit was not filed until after the Iowa Civil Liberties Union approached their family, and the ACLU agreed to help the family with the lawsuit. Their parents, in turn, filed suit in U.S. District Court, which upheld the decision of the Des Moines school board. A tie vote in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit meant that the U.S. District Court’s decision continued to stand, and forced the Tinkers and Eckhardts to appeal to the Supreme Court directly. The case was argued before the court on November 12, 1968.

    The case was funded by Des Moines residents Louise Noun, then the president of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, and her brother, Joseph Rosenfield, a businessman.[1][2]
    Legal precedents and issues

    Previous decisions, such as West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, had established that students did have some constitutional protections in public school. This case was the first time that the court set forth standards for safeguarding public school students’ free speech rights.[3] This case involved Symbolic Speech, which was first recognized in Stromberg v. California.[3]
    The Court’s decision
    Majority opinion

    The court’s 7-2 decision held that the First Amendment applied to public schools, and that administrators would have to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech in the classroom. The court observed, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”[4] Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion, holding that the speech regulation at issue in Tinker was “based upon an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression, even by the silent symbol of armbands, of opposition to this Nation’s part in the conflagration in Vietnam.” The Court held that in order for school officials to justify censoring speech, they “must be able to show that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” allowing schools to forbid conduct that would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”[5] The Court found that the actions of the Tinkers in wearing armbands did not cause disruption and held that their activity represented constitutionally protected symbolic speech.

    Justices Hugo Black and John M. Harlan II dissented. Black, who had long believed that disruptive “symbolic speech” was not constitutionally protected, wrote, “While I have always believed that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments neither the State nor the Federal Government has any authority to regulate or censor the content of speech, I have never believed that any person has a right to give speeches or engage in demonstrations where he pleases and when he pleases.” Black argued that the Tinkers’ behavior was indeed disruptive and declared, “I repeat that if the time has come when pupils of state-supported schools, kindergartens, grammar schools, or high schools, can defy and flout orders of school officials to keep their minds on their own schoolwork, it is the beginning of a new revolutionary era of permissiveness in this country fostered by the judiciary.”[6]

    Harlan dissented on the grounds that he “[found] nothing in this record which impugns the good faith of respondents in promulgating the armband regulation.”[7]
    Subsequent jurisprudence

    Tinker remains a viable and frequently-cited Court precedent, though subsequent Court decisions have determined limitations on the scope of student free speech rights. In Bethel School District v. Fraser, a 1986 case, the Supreme Court held that a high school student’s sexual innuendo–laden speech during a student assembly was not constitutionally protected. Though Fraser applies the Tinker test of disruption to school decorum, if not undermining of educational mission, the effect is to make an exception to Tinker for “indecent” speech. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, where the court ruled that schools have the right to regulate, for legitimate educational reasons, the content of non-forum, school-sponsored newspapers, also limits Tinker’s application. The Court in Hazelwood clarified that both Fraser and Hazelwood were decided under the doctrine of Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators Association. Such a distinction keeps undisturbed the Material Disruption doctrine of Tinker, while deciding certain student free speech cases under the Nonpublic Forum doctrine of Perry. In Morse v. Frederick, the so-called “Bong Hits For Jesus” case of 2007, the Court held that schools may, consistent with the First Amendment, restrict student speech at a school-sponsored event, even those events occurring off school grounds, when that speech is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use. In 2013, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit re-heard a case that had been argued before a panel of its judges, considering whether a charitable effort – a breast cancer awareness drive – impermissibly disrupts a middle school by distributing bracelets imprinted “I ♥ Boobies.”[8]
    See also
    Wikinews has related news: ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech

    Freedom of speech
    List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 393
    Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919)
    Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)
    Broussard v. School Board of Norfolk
    Morse v. Frederick (2007)
    Gillman v. Holmes County School District (2008)
    Des Moines Public Schools


    Noun, Louise Rosenfield (1990). Journey to Autonomy : A Memoir (1st ed.). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0-8138-1899-0.
    Janega, James (1 September 2002). “Louise Rosenfield Noun, 94: Iowa feminist, writer, civic activist”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
    Eastland, Terry (2000). Freedom of Expression in the Supreme Court The Defining Cases. United States of America: Rowman & Littlefield publishers. p. 185..
    Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).
    Tinker, 393 U.S. at 509.
    Tinker, 393 U.S. at 517-18.
    Tinker, 393 U.S. at 526.
    “‘I ♥ Boobies’ Case Heard En Banc by Third Circuit”. The Legal Intelligencer. February 21, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013.

  6. Sometimes kids would want to hug drivers and all the driver could do was stand there with arms down like a robot or statue.

    That is so sad. I feel bad for the children. How confused and rejected they must have felt.


  7. I have indeed been to more than one “big box” church, and Olly’s above description is 100% accurate. I moved from Sonoma County, CA to a different state in the mid-2000s. McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma had several billboards inviting readers to “Divorce Group Meetings” at several big box churches. (Petaluma now has frequent drug overdose deaths, deceased found on public streets. Petaluma is a mix of Carmel and Calcutta, mostly the latter.)

    My wife was a school bus driver in Sonoma County. Her employer’s rule was any physical contact would result in immediate dismissal and potential criminal charges. Sometimes kids would want to hug drivers and all the driver could do was stand there with arms down like a robot or statue.

    Did anyone think to possibly fire this “Principal’s” boss, or if no other option recall the mayor who allowed it happen?

  8. Fogdog,
    Have you been to a service at a “Big box” Christian church? They are the last place a Christian would hear about sin or hell. They are “big” because they message how to live a “fulfilling” life without being saddled with the understanding they even have a sinful nature. Christian “doctrine” won’t be found at the mega-churches, to get that one has to brave stepping into for example, an LCMS Church to actually get doctrine.

  9. Remember this is the South. They probably think that a hug would be a form of homosexual or deviant behavior. I was in DFW last weekend and could not believe all the big box “Christian” churches at every freeway exit. Those churches are competing in size with Walmart. The devil is chasing them.

  10. Good comment HSK.

    I watched a portion of a NOVA story last evening regarding how decision-making needs to involve both reason and emotion to work properly. It showed people who had suffered brain trauma and how the hemispheres in the brain were unable to coordinate the decision-making process. They could reason through for example the various labels on a grocery store shelf but became frustrated and overwhelmed when tasked to decide which item to buy.

    I believe as society continues to abandon teaching critical-thinking skills and instead uses indoctrination as the means to shape our culture, more and more people will lose this ability to connect reason with emotion. Logical thinkers will process facts but be unable to do anything with them and emotional thinkers will simply melt at the slightest affront to their indoctrination. Those with the ability to connect rational thought with emotion will continue banging their heads on their keyboards at the decline of human civilization.

    1. Olly – are you intimating that we make all grocery decisions emotionally? Personally, I get what my wife puts on the list. It is the logical thing to do. 😉

    2. Not only indoctrinations but massive level of testing of ones abilities to regurgitate and memorize information that is written in books. And all a long I thought the reason for books is so that you don’t have to memorize all this crap, so you can leave you mind open to thought. It appears to me education like government has always been used as a means of segregating society into the haves and have nots and those that go along with the system and those that are free thinkers that may attempt to alter the status quo. Socrates and Jesus come to mind.

  11. KC,
    My tax dollars still go to the school district. They get additional funding for every enrolled student. My children are not enrolled, so they do not get that portion.

  12. hsk, Great comment. All organizations need the mix of male/female. We are hardwired differently. Without the balance, both male and female organizations are horribly unbalanced and dysfunctional. On the male dominated front, look @ the Catholic Church!

  13. DBQ, When children are not touched they suffer from attachment disorder. It manifests itself as adults in not being able to form lasting relationships or to understand the concept of trust. This is prevalent in many adopted children from foreign countries when they are housed in large orphanages. Many children adopted from Russia suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome as well as attachment disorder. A HORRIBLE combo.

  14. If you have ever watched TV shows like Dr. Drew or Dr. Joyce Brothers, some women have a tough time deciding what is right from wrong. These two people would often help walk them through their decision making process as guidance to the best decision.

    According to the book the Three Pound Universe, women have more brain cells between the two hemispheres of our brains causing information and emotions to get sort of all mushed together causing them to have more elements/issues to consider, making it more difficult for them to sometimes come to a logical conclusion. If you notice, such as at work, women are more apt to go by the proverbial book then men. You tell them a set of rule, they will stick to it and often do a better job, but if something comes up that is not specific in the rule book, they get out of sorts. My girlfriend works in an office full of women and she comes homes sometimes so frustrated from dealing with her fellow workers, I just have to laugh. Of course you don’t want them to catch you laughing.

    Many women are very logical in their decision making processes but many aren’t. That doesn’t means they shouldn’t be in positions of power, it just means sometimes we may have to set them down and make them rethink their decisions; best to do it in a group. lol. Remember, women can be just as prone to wanting positions of power and power does corrupt us, and absolute power corrupts us absolutely. Intervention is not liked by those in power but it is often a necessity. Just look at our judicial system as an example. We sadly did not incorporate a system for which the Citizens can challenge a Judicial decision, into our Constitution and have paid dearly for this omission. Thinking that the Legislature, which enacts constant laws that are unconstitutional to reprimand the Judiciary, when they rubberstamp their enactments will remedy the bad decision, is irrational.

  15. Touching, hugging, physical contact is VITAL to the human condition. I agree, kissing and “making out” are not appropriate in a school setting…or even in a public setting for adults. Get a room!!! Have some decorum! No one wants to see you slobber over each other!!! 😉

    There was a cruel experiment on monkeys where a young monkey was given two choices of surrogate mothers. One was a wire frame with the food source, a bottle with milk. The other was a soft terry cloth cuddly frame with no food source. Of course the young monkey would not starve to death because it would eat/suckle (reluctantly) at the cold hard comfortless source. BUT…at all other times it would cling to the soft comforting source and when in distress run to the cloth covered surrogate for protection.

    The young monkeys who had ONLY the wire surrogate, survived but they were insane and unable to react with other normal monkeys. Insane.

    Just like monkeys people need to be touched and comforted by others. It is normal social contact and important to mental health and development. Deprive them of this, isolate them from the other monkeys and you get insane monkeys. And insane humans.

  16. I second bettykath’s motion to support Olly’s mass act of defiance. KCF touched on one of the root causes of this insanity, the college campus. JT and Darren routinely post about the insane PC rules, speech codes, etc. on college campuses. Liberals and feminists have taken over higher education and the Education Industry.

    The great coach and teacher, John Wooden, spoke about how to treat people in a group setting. He said, “I tire of hearing people proudly say they treat everyone the same. We all know everyone is not the same. We all have different genes, different fingerprints, different strengths, weaknesses, needs. What me must do is treat everyone FAIRLY. Acknowledging we are all different and then treating all the same, is by definition, unfair.”

    You can also thank attorneys for this zero tolerance insanity as well.

  17. Sending your child to public school is child abuse.
    Increasingly, private schools are adopting similar policies.

    Home school if you can.
    Starve their coffers.

  18. Hugs are a way of transferring good energy between people. Such a transfer is especially necessary when one is having a bad day. It helps to rejuvenate the spirit.

    I like olly suggestions of the students all start hugging each other between classes or, as some have suggested, a big group hug just before school starts. Let’s hope the students haven’t been so indoctrinated that they totally comply with authority.

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