School Climate & Safety

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March 07, 2001 1 min read
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Embraced by the Media

A Minnesota school has been blanketed with media attention since a local newspaper wrongly reported that the school had prohibited hugging.

The story, printed last month in the Brainerd Dispatch, said that teachers were giving out “discipline checks” to students for hugging in the hallways.

When the story was picked up by other papers, Pequot Lakes School started getting calls from news organizations every day, said Bonnie Nylin, the secretary to Chuck Arns, the principal of the 7th and 8th grades at the 1,325-student school in Pequot Lakes, Minn.

Reporters’ interest since the misinterpretation “has just snowballed,” she said.

The middle-level school doesn’t have a policy against hugging, Ms. Nylin explained, but it does frown on tardiness. The school’s policy, in place for several years, is written in the student handbook and says a tardy student will be given “checks” that accumulate, ending in after-school detention.

Students began getting checks for being tardy, but they saw them as punishment for hugging because that was one reason why some students were slow in getting to class, Ms. Nylin said. Those same students, it seems, were interviewed for the first story.

Ms. Nylin said she was shocked when the story maintained that hugging was forbidden at the school. Checks were also given out for spending too long in the restroom, hanging out at the lockers, or any other behavior that made students late to class.

Since the first story, Ms. Nylin said, “we have been contacted from coast to coast, by London, Colombia newspapers, TV, radio.”

The media storm has been interesting, Ms. Nylin said. “If I wasn’t the one answering all those calls,” she said, “I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Now that the hubbub is dying down, she hopes the school has clarified its policy. “Really, we’re just a small school in a small town in northern Minnesota that gets a lot of snow,” she said.

—Vanessa Dea

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A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2001 edition of Education Week

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