School Bans Clapping. Kids May Wriggle, Punch the Air and Show “Excited Faces”

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Elanora Heights, a public school in Sydney, Australia, has banned clapping out of “respect” for noise-sensitive students. Instead, kids can “conduct a silent cheer.”

Woo hoo!

Sorry… I mean (I am waving my hands in the air in front of my laptop while grinning excitedly).

As The Herald Sun reports:

In its July 18 newsletter, the Elanora school has published an item under the headline “Did you know” that “our school has adopted silent cheers at assembly’s” (sic).

“If you’ve been to a school assembly recently, you may have noticed our students doing silent cheers,” the item reads.

“Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot.

“The practice has been adopted to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise.

“When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed.

“Teachers have also found the silent cheers to be a great way to expend children’s energy and reduce fidgeting.”

Yes, I’ll bet fidgeting is a thing of the past, now that kids can silently mouth the word, “Hooray!”

Some students are, I’m sure, sensitive to noise. But that is not like being sensitive to something superfluous to childhood and easily banned, like, say, latex gloves. Cheering is normal behavior. It’s spontaneous. It’s not mean, it’s not bullying, it’s the way humans celebrate.

The song doesn’t go, “If you’re happy and you know it, silently wriggle.”

What’s more, “sensitivity” is a pretty broad word. “Sensitive” to the point where the child literally is in agony and cannot function? Or “sensitive,” as in, “doesn’t enjoy” or even “hates” something?

Hyper-sensitivity might require a different school setting entirely, as would hyper-sensitivity to germs, or light. But plain old “God I hate that”-sensitivity is part of life we all have to deal with. In fact, dealing with it is part of what helps kids grow up and function in the world.

Banning normal behavior because of some possibly hypothetical sensitivity is not just a slippery slope, it’s at the bottom of that slope — the place you hoped not to slip all the way down to.

At that bottom, all of human interaction is up for banning: hugs (for those sensitive to touch), hellos (for those sensitive to interaction), handshakes (for those with OCD).

While it does make sense to re-evaluate old practices that may we have evolved beyond  (calling grown women “girls,” calling grown Black men “boys”), when you start outlawing an entire genre of interaction — cheering — you have cast your vote against humanity and in favor of crippling correctness.

And crippling is what we are doing when we treat our kids as if they can’t handle so much as a (here I am pulling an excited face).  – L

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Shut up, you insensitive brat!

Shut up, you insensitive brat!

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56 Responses to School Bans Clapping. Kids May Wriggle, Punch the Air and Show “Excited Faces”

  1. Kelly July 21, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    At the school where I teach, our students who are sensitive to these things are either allowed to use devices to help (like earphones to block some of the noise of a pep rally), sit in a spot that is less noisy or close to a door to allow breaks, or choose not to attend at all.

  2. Workshop July 21, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    Well, so much for that brief moment of sanity Lenore posted yesterday . . . .

  3. Freman Hendrix July 21, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Feminist Jazz Hands! You thought it was just a joke but it is real.

  4. Ravana July 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    I understand this. When you have autistic students integrated into the general population clapping and cheering can set them off and you will never get them out of the situation safely. The child needs to attend assemblies etc.to work through other issues, so you pick your battles. I did a presentation at a school once where popping a balloon was involved. The special ed teacher told me that in one group I couldn’t pop the balloon because she’d lose her autistic kid. When it came to the balloon popping part I made the movement like I’d pop the balloon then I said, “POP! I just popped the balloon.” and threw it over my shoulder. The kids all understood and laughed.

    Personally, I’d teach the kids in that school to use the sign language sign for clapping. (In ASL it is waving jazz hands up by your head)

  5. Theresa July 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    I dislike some noises but I think try stop them. If it about someone who is autistic then if the sound bother them then separate them from the noise.

  6. Jenny Islander July 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    As it happens, I have ASD, and on some days the world simply cannot be quiet enough. Before I understood what was going on, I spent a lot of my life with my fingers in my ears. These days I “listen to music” on headphones that aren’t actually connected to anything. I think that’s a better solution than making everybody stop clapping because it’s easier to control one factor (Where are my headphones?) than 500 (every other student in the school).

  7. Dean July 21, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Is there any hope that schools will ever go back to teaching? Things like the three Rs, instead of politically correctness and over-sensitivity to sensitivity?
    It has been my observation that even very young babies express themselves by clapping. How does one teach a toddler or younger person how to “silently cheer”?

  8. m July 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    What about children (and adults) who are sensitive to quiet?

    We all know the type. Loud boys and girls who are spontaneous with their laughter, talk easily, frequently, and loudly, and who find quiet stifling and uncomfortable.

    You know, the rambunctious types? Why are we stifling one group in order to accommodate another? Who is to say those who prefer quiet are find noise upsetting more “in need” to those who prefer noise and find quiet upsetting?

  9. Alanna July 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    There are autistic students who are sensitive to noise, but a better plan might be to let the assembly be noisy and let those kids or their caretakers decide whether they want to go on not. If they do go, then they should be given a way to leave the assembly if it gets too loud for them.

  10. m July 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    This is the same as saying “Since Johnny is in a wheelchair and cannot walk, we must eliminate walking”.

    No, we make accommodations for Johnny by having ramps, accessible schools, classrooms and bathrooms. But we allow others to move in a manner that is normal to them.

    And so much for the myth that schools prepare children to participate in the “real world”.

  11. Vicki Bradley July 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    But what if a child accidentally punches another child while punching the air?!

  12. MichaelF July 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    I can’t wait for the pendulum to swing back for those of us who have a hypersensitivity to stupidity

    I see a lot of stupidity in this world and it bothers me, I am just “sensitive” to it, and that needs to be respected.

  13. TreeMother July 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Consider that this policy may be an accommodation to a real danger, not an imagined fear. One has to consider that finding a balance between free range first and inclusion may be a reasonable goal before jumping on the bandwagon. In this political season I would say teaching sensitivity to others is very high on the list of lessons to teach in school.

  14. Dienne July 21, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    m – No, I think it’s closer to saying that since Johnny is seriously allergic to peanuts, no one can bring peanut products to school. I realize it’s not quite the same, but close. As a society we seem to have accepted that kids with peanut allergies shouldn’t have to be exiled at lunch and other food-related activity times, so we just eliminate something that’s only hazard for a few from everyone. Although I don’t know that eliminating noise is the right answer, I am pleased to hear that schools are being more sensitive to the issue. And as TreeMother pointed out, it’s very likely a response to a very real problem.

  15. dmg July 21, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    My son attends an inclusion school that mixes typically developing kids with special needs kids. They teach kids the ASL sign for hand clapping (waving your hands in the air) as there are kids in his school with an extreme sensitivity to noise. There are still a few folks who clap and cheer, but the noise level is greatly reduced. Being that the weekly assemblies are in the gym with horrible acoustics, it is actually quite nice as the noise level isn’t so deafening and everyone understands the sentiment, which is most important not the method of delivering the sentiment.

  16. Vaughan Evans July 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    When I was growing up I would read my High School handbooks-about how to behave on occasions.
    I learned that there ARE situations when applauding(clapping) is a no-no.

    (1)On a Remembrance Day Ceremony-if a person recites “In Flanders Fields” there is no applauding.

    (2)The same is true if you are watching “The Passion Play”(Since it has a religious theme-by custom there is no applauding
    This play began-when the people in one German city(who for some reason were spared a plague)made a play-which was a way to thanking God-that this plague did not reach this village.

  17. NY Mom July 21, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I attended an outdoor concert in my town a few days ago with a rousing local band who are admirers of Pete Seeger, master of the sing along. My friends Linda and I were the only ones singing. Clapping? Quiet and polite.

    This is a recent phenomenon. I suspect we are all newly uptight and scared of our shadows.
    We believe we are alone and in danger and we protect ourselves by crawling into our shells and burying our heads in the sand like Australian ostriches.

    The band Tuesday evening got the kids out front and singing and clapping. The song was Bill Staine’s “A Place in the Choir”.
    Everybody! “All God’s children got a place in the choir…some just clap their hands, paws, everything they got now!”

    Push back!

  18. Virginia July 21, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    I can’t get too “up in arms” about this one. My kid’s kindergarten (10 years ago) adopted the ASL “clap”; the small class had one child who truly came unhinged at clapping (not noise, just clapping). The kids actually loved it and their classmate could participate in fun assemblies with his friends. The kids did get VERY energetic with their “claps” and nobody was ever chastised if, in the enthusiasm, she clapped her hands.

  19. Workshop July 21, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    “Sit down and shut up and do what we say, because we’re the experts and you are just an ignorant plebe.”

  20. Nicole July 21, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

    This is one I too can’t get too annoyed by…I think it’s much less worrisome than banning soccer or running on the playgroup, or arresting moms for parenting in a way someone doesn’t agree with. I appreciate the examples below…and I actually think it’s more important for schools to be teaching sensitivity and dealing with others who are different than how to adapt to the real world.

  21. Alex July 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    My kid has a very mild case of noise-sensitivity. The ENT seeing him suggested that we should try to expose him to louder environments (safe for hearing, of course, no jet engines for example) in positive situations (e.g. go play to a crowded park). If we see no improvement over time (and he’s being tracked) then we should consider therapy. It appears that the school policy might be counterproductive and the kids who may mostly benefit from the noisier environment might end up needing physician directed therapy. 🙁

  22. shdd July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    I have spent the year attending middle school chorus concerts, a middle school play, and of course an 8th grade promotion ceremony. There was plenty of encouraging yelling and clapping. Solos in the chorus received a loud standing ovation. When a friend received an award at the promotion ceremony everyone clapped and then most of the kids high fived on the way back.

    The parents did the same thing during the middle school promotion ceremony. We clapped at the awards and congratulated the winning parents. If a child wins best history student or most improved history student please clap and show some respect. Clapping is a form of appreciation not an offense.

  23. HotInLa July 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Dumbest thing I’ve read so far today. If they’re that noise sensitive, there are noise blocking headphones, or, gasp, they can not attend!

  24. Bridget July 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    Well, I am a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) so I can say that very loud noises can be agonizing. HOWEVER, the estimated amount of HSPs in the population is 20%. I do not expect that the world should accommodate me. It’s up to me to find coping methods that work for me. It’s not just noise. It is smells, crowds, bright light, very harsh emotions…it is sensory overload. An HSP person is heavily effected by these things. If someone sneaks up on me to scare me, it’s actual painful. Most people jump and laugh when someone scares them. I cannot use a break room if there are many people in there so there are different kinds of food smell. But I accommodate myself by heating up my own lunch early or late so that there is no one in there. Then I eat lunch at my desk. I’m guessing there are other challenges that might make someone sound sensitive. But the chances are that there are, at most, 10 or so kids in the entire school that have something that causes this.

  25. James Pollock July 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    I fail to see a problem here.
    A school has evaluated the needs of its student body and adopted a policy. The number of people who are affected by the policy who are complaining about it appears to be minimal, possibly zero.
    So, they do things differently than we do. Who cares?

  26. Warren July 21, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    Again the rights of the majority are taken from them because of those that won’t take ownership of their own issue.

  27. Anna July 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    “No, I think it’s closer to saying that since Johnny is seriously allergic to peanuts, no one can bring peanut products to school. I realize it’s not quite the same, but close. As a society we seem to have accepted that kids with peanut allergies shouldn’t have to be exiled at lunch and other food-related activity times, so we just eliminate something that’s only hazard for a few from everyone.”

    Personally, I’m not on board with this either. My son had multiple food allergies – not including peanuts – and for a long time, peanut butter was just about the only protein-rich convenience food he could actually eat. I’d have been pretty annoyed to have it banned just because of someone else’s allergies. (It’s also, incidentally, about the cheapest such food there is, and I think poor parents would have an equal right to resent it being banned.)

    If you ask me, if someone’s allergy is truly that deadly, it makes more sense to avoid the public setting where the allergen cannot easily be avoided, rather than to insist that everyone else change their behavior.

  28. Betsy in Michigan July 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    My Aspie son has no problem excusing himself from situations if they are too loud (such as a gym), especially since his sensitivity may vary day to day! I hate to be litigious, but someone needs to start bringing lawsuits against this kind of stupidity (for “taking the joy out of human interaction”, perhaps?). This must be why I am both a homeschooling and a charter school parent (2 children). People need to be prepared to walk – not just accept the idiocy.

  29. Ater July 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    If you have to change Society’s behavior to allow autistic children to integrate, they are not fully integrating. I have an autistic son, and the point of his therapy is to help him function in the real world, because the real world is not going to change to suit his needs. Any thing more is unrealistic.

  30. Jenny Islander July 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Then you run into the issue that not everyone can afford to homeschool or send their child to a special private school.

    Peanut allergies are in a class by themselves because, first and foremost, children with severe peanut allergies DIE. This needs all caps because people seem to forget it, like, a lot. DEAD. ROTTING CORPSE OF A CHILD. Second, the allergen is in the peanut and in its oil. Third, this means that peanuts can be present as a tiny oil mark on somebody’s fingers, vapor going through an exhaust fan from a kitchen, or even dust from a peanut that got stepped on–because peanuts can be ground to a very fine powder quite easily. The damn things get everywhere, is what I’m saying. They’re worse than any other food allergen I know of. I have seen a documented case of a peanut-allergic child developing a bright red raised rash in the shape of human hands on her back because her dad shook hands at work with a man who had just eaten a peanut butter sandwich, and three hours later he hugged his daughter. She was wearing a shirt that covered her entire back and midriff, but it didn’t matter. Luckily he didn’t hand her anything to eat before they realized what had happened!

    So to provide a basic education when there’s a child who may DIE within minutes if a tiny bit of peanut anything is in the room, you either have to ban peanuts from the entire school, or declare certain rooms off limits to peanuts and train a sniffer dog, which has to go everywhere with the student. Both expensive, both cumbersome. But, again, peanuts, that potentially rapidly lethal allergen, can end up anywhere in amounts and forms that are very hard to spot.

  31. Yocheved July 21, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    The best thing you can do for kids with sensory issues, is to desensitize them. Gradually getting them used to irritants will forge stronger brain connections and make them more resilient adults.

    I have a friend who has an Autistic daughter. She made her daughter sleep in a different room of other house every night. Now, the girl has no problem sleeping, no matter what the circumstances.

    It’s really important to push kids out of their comfort zones, and you need to start young.

  32. Ron Skurat July 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    Um, there are these brand new things they just invented, called earplugs. They even make ones that block out very loud noise, preferentially.

    Last time I was on a playground, kids were yelling and screaming. Is this banned as well?

    Shaking My Head – thank god my nephews are grown

  33. Melanie July 21, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    Oh for goodness sakes! This is not helping noise-sensitive children prepare for life after school.

  34. hineata July 21, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    I think it does depend on the particular type of child you’re dealing with. A class I had recently contained a boy who had trouble dealing with assembly noise, and he was OK with wearing industrial earmuffs to block the noise. If you have a child though who cannot deal with that solution, though, you run into the potential for some pretty spectacular meltdowns.

    If the children at this school aren’t fussed about this decision, then they’ll no doubt have experienced the sort of thing I’m thinking about. Kids aren’t stupid, and are happy these days to accommodate most special needs of their classmates. I think mainstreaming has given today’s children a higher level of empathy than my generation had, when special needs kids were mostly hidden from view.

  35. hineata July 21, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

    Oh, two ‘thoughs’! Bad teacher!

    And actually, how much cheering etc would you expect in an assembly? I usually want the kids to sit pretty darn still and quietly, and then take them to whoop around outside afterwards. ..a run, perhaps, or a game.

  36. SanityAnyone? July 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    I can understand banning peanuts if someone with airborne allergies shares your lunchroom, but not this “sound of silence” approach.

    I do feel that if a kid has a serious problem, they should be excused or seated in an accommodating section so they are not always excluded. I would have gladly joined the kids in the quiet section if given the option. Instead, I tried to leave the idiotic pep rallies and hide. It wasn’t because of noise sensitivity, although I didn’t like the noise. There was something inherently unsettling about seeing a large group of people riled up by their leaders and screaming violent “sporty” mottos, learning mob mentality at school. Kind of like watching the political conventions.

    Regarding the banning of saying “Hello”, that’s not so far-fetched. Those who don’t receive many hallway greetings can feel socially isolated or depressed. It’s a real problem and always has been, but banning normal positive behaviors is not the answer. There must be a way to help our kids ride out bumps in the road more skillfully.

  37. Theresa July 21, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    Sanity you sound like me when I was a kid. I hated being forced to go those dumb pep rallies. It was too loud from my point of view. I would have hid in the Library but everyone had to go so I had to go. The only thing I wanted was a quiet place to read but I got a noisy one instead. If they wanted my support for the game I would been glad to wish them luck but I have never liked pep rallies.

  38. Donald Christensen July 21, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    I think this is more about the neighbors near the school.

    Some people complain so often that nobody listens to them anymore. If fact their ‘complaint’ does not even register. This is because they have become known to make this annoying sound like a goose that squawks all the time.

    If you were to confront this complainer and ask them, don’t you want children to grow up happy?
    They’d respond with, of course I do. I just want them do it quietly. You’d then hear these same people complain that kids get into mischief out of boredom because they don’t grow up happy.

    If they’re not complaining today, they’re thinking about what to complain about tomorrow. I wish they’d choose a different hobby such as stamp collecting or crossword puzzles.

    I wrote a song about these people.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMj9xOPCoVY

  39. maggie July 21, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    QUESTION: What if the person on stage is BLIND and can’t see “silent cheers”? How do you accommodate them?

  40. James Pollock July 21, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

    “QUESTION: What if the person on stage is BLIND and can’t see “silent cheers”? How do you accommodate them?”

    Somebody says “hey, they like it!” out loud.

  41. Warren July 21, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    My friends husband is sensitive to sound to the point of pain. He carries disposable ear plugs on him all the time.

    This ban is just another step in the long line of special needs hypocrisy. My special needs child is entitled to do everything the other kids do……………but the other kids are not allowed to do things that bother my special needs child or that my special needs child can’t do.

    Parents are taking the special in special needs to mean something that it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean your child is special and can dictate the lives of others. We were all told that integrating special needs into the mainstream would not affect the students. I knew they were lying then and as usual I was right.

  42. Brett July 21, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    It took me about 3 seconds to go to the school’s website and see that the story isn’t true. Never believe what you see on channel 7 or in Murdoch papers.

  43. Anna July 21, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

    “Peanut allergies are in a class by themselves because, first and foremost, children with severe peanut allergies DIE.”

    Perhaps, but it has also become the case that every parent who did random prick-tests for allergies and got a positive result for peanuts (which, just as often as not, does not indicate any clinical reaction, let alone a lethal one) is announcing that their kid has a deadly allergy and demanding accommodations that seriously impact everybody else. That’s hysteria, not science.

  44. Anna July 21, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

    “So to provide a basic education when there’s a child who may DIE within minutes if a tiny bit of peanut anything is in the room, you either have to ban peanuts from the entire school, or declare certain rooms off limits to peanuts and train a sniffer dog, which has to go everywhere with the student.”

    Again, if the allergy is really truly that extreme, personally I wouldn’t dream of sending my kid to public school. Would anyone, if they really believed their kid was that vulnerable? Honestly, being “just like everybody else” and sharing the public school experience is not that precious and irreplaceable a good. Does it make sense to go ahead and send your kid to school under such circumstances, as if it’s a casual matter, but then expect everybody else around them to treat it as a life-and-death matter?

  45. Cassie July 22, 2016 at 3:26 am #

    I think there is a bit more to this story. The school is doing a lot of positive inclusive things… for example I believe it has a “lonely” seat where a child can sit to indicate that they are feeling lonely and would like someone to play with them.

    I can think of several reasons why encouraging young people to wave instead of clap is a good thing. (Assemblies at schools are stupidly noisy, some autistic children are highly sensitive to noise, and also the dead community, I believe, prefer hand waving to clapping as well…. to name a few).

  46. Jenny Islander July 22, 2016 at 4:04 am #

    @Anna: To homeschool, you nearly always have to support the household on one income. I know; I’m doing it. To sent a child to private school, unless you’re on the economic stratum that can drop $10,000 here and there and never see it again without a qualm, also involves living on one income, as the other paycheck pays for school. Neither alternative is 100 percent feasible. Hence, public school for the peanut-allergic.

  47. Papilio July 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Aren’t there special public schools?

    Like others have mentioned, I too would then prefer sign language clapping (international thing, not limited to ASL)(and thanks for explaining jazz hands to me, haha).

  48. hineata July 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    Good on you Brett! :-). That’s funny. I fell for it as fast as anyone else. ..good lesson to us to look up original sources ourselves, something I was just telling someone else to do yesterday ☺.

    It’s interesting that it is for a teacher that the quiet has been asked for in a small number of gatherings…..one would think the teacher might prefer to sit in the staff room having a coffee rather than go to assembly. I know I would, if I could get out of them ☺.

  49. Dave July 22, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    Seems like an extension of over-the-top “safe spaces” thinking.

  50. PJH July 24, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    “Some students are, I’m sure, sensitive to noise”

    It’s got nothing to do with the students. It’s about a teacher with a hearing aid:

    http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/school-life/school-imposed-clapping-ban-because-teacher-has-hearing-aid-minister-says/news-story/0115683a6e047fbe776e11faa11f0412

    “A SYDNEY primary school imposed a clapping ban on its students in favour of “silent cheers” because one of its teachers wears hearing aids and found the noise of applause too loud, the NSW Government has said.”

  51. BL July 25, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    “and also the *dead* community, I believe, prefer hand waving to clapping as well”

    Dead? Is this also in Australia? Our dead in the USA aren’t so lively.

  52. anne Doe July 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    I am not a parent-but even though my parents were (and still are) over-protective. I had more opportunities then most children. My mom would let me play in the backyard playing with the basketball hoop, walking to/from school alone after Gr.4 (my BF moved away), and not to mention the treats mom would bring for my class the annual baseball game between the staff and Gr.8s. or the treat someone brought in when I was almost 8.

  53. James Pollock July 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    “Dead? Is this also in Australia? Our dead in the USA aren’t so lively.”

    At least, not since Jerry Garcia passed away…

  54. Beth July 26, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    @Brett, I’m confused about how this story isn’t true. Lenore has even posted an update from what appears to be a reputable news site, with quotes and everything.

    Please post your link proving that it’s not true.

  55. James Pollock July 26, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    “I’m confused about how this story isn’t true.”

    Go to the school’s website, and see for yourself.

    http://www.elanorahts-p.schools.nsw.edu.au/

    http://www.elanorahts-p.schools.nsw.edu.au/news/misrepresentation-of-quot-clapping-ban-quot-story-in-media