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Teaching Profession

Is it O.K. for Male Teachers to Hug Students?

By Francesca Duffy — August 09, 2011 1 min read

The Sacramento Bee recently interviewed a few male teachers in the Sacramento, Calif., area, on their thoughts about showing affection toward kids at school.

According to kindergarten teacher Paul Ferreter, his teachers’ union instructs educators to refrain from touching students, which means that even a pat on the shoulder is out. But Ferreter says that he still gives his students what he calls a “sideways hug.” “I’m taking that risk because I think it’s important,” said Ferreter.

Bryan Nelson, founder of the national nonprofit Men Teach, which aims to recruit more males into the teaching force, said hugs are appropriate at times. “I instruct men that if a child goes to hug you, you can. Be proactive and define what you do if a child needs comfort,” said Nelson, who argues that “kids need affection.”

Meanwhile, 5th grade teacher Carlos Rico said that reading headlines about sexual allegations against male educators makes teachers “hypersensitive” about physical interactions with students. “When I was growing up, I’d hug teachers,” he told the paper. But, he added, “The rule of thumb now is not to even touch students.”

Even teacher preparation programs are erring on the side of caution. The Bee also reports that the teacher education program at the University of California, Davis, recently conducted demonstrations during orientation on what kind of touching is appropriate between teachers and students.

“When a kid comes up to hug you, you put up a high-five,” said Shannon Cannon, a supervisor and lecturer at UC Davis.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.