Why the “No Touch” Policy at Schools and Camps Makes No Sense


This sneyydtfrn
letter I got yesterday reminds me of one of the most thorough, fascinating, damning study I’ve ever read about where the “No touch” policy comes from (and why it is unnecessary, and how it actually makes us all MORE afraid for our kids):

So those sex crazed pedophiles have invaded the Girl Scouts now apparently. My daughter went to horse camp this summer and even though the girls are as young as 5 and out in the heat and sun of Tucson the female leaders are unable to help the girls put sunscreen on or help them with their riding helmets because that would require them to…. Gasp… TOUCH THEM! That’s right they are not allowed to even touch their face or the back of their necks or any other hard to reach place. Instead they stand in front of the girl and put the sunscreen on theirselves while the girl watches so she can mimic their movements and see where they are missing. Girl by girl. Talk about a waste of time and a great way to get lots of little girls with sunburns on the back of their necks or tips of their ears. You can’t even sign a release giving permission for them to touch them. That is so crazy!

“Crazy” is literally true.  This remarkable paper by New Zealand professor Alison Jones explains that the fear of counselors or teachers touching kids grew out of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. When a well-regarded study seemed to “prove” that 5.5 out of 10,000 children would be sexually molested in early childhood ed, drastic precautions were deemed necessary. But, Jones writes, “Not only was [the researchers’]  methodology very doubtful (by their own admission) but they also included as their flagship teacher sexual abuse example the infamous McMartin day care ritual abuse case in California, which was still in court at the time of the publication of their research.” While the researchers “were happy to assume in their research report that the McMartin daycare staff were guilty of abusing ‘hundreds’ of children, all staff involved in the case were in fact later acquitted.”

Too late! The idea had already taken hold that students were being “groomed” for pedophilia left and right. The upshot? Jones interviewed teachers in her native New Zealand:

“I’ll touch a child only when I really have to – on the arm or back maybe. Or in an emergency. And even then maybe not, if there is a female staff member there she will always do it. Never the trunk area. Not the head, that is culturally insensitive… Nowhere, really! (laugh) It could easily be misconstrued….” (first year male teacher)

“Yesterday we had an interschool game and a boy did so well I wanted to congratulate him and I went up and instead of awhi-ing him [gesture of arm around the child’s shoulders], I was standoffish.” (male principal)

“When a child is really inconsolable, sobbing, from name-calling or something, and they just need an arm around them, you just can’t…You are just aware that it is not part of the protocol, so you get other kids to make them feel better, or you try to distract them somehow.” (experienced female teacher)

“I used to cuddle the kids. I wouldn’t now. If a child is upset I’ll get some other children to comfort them. “(experienced female teacher)

“Hands in pockets. They grab hold of your hands, so fold your arms….” (male first year teacher)

Jones writes that in a culture completely obsessed with risk avoidance, this new practice may seem like “common sense,” but it’s not. Common sense is what the teachers did BEFORE these new rules. The rules are hysteria made physical. And ironically — tragically — rather than reassuring parents, they are “reinforcing the idea that teachers are potential abusers who must be watched at all times.”

Including when they help a kid put on sunscreen, in public. – L.


Watch out for that potential predator, kids!

Watch out for that potential predator, kids!


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62 Responses to Why the “No Touch” Policy at Schools and Camps Makes No Sense

  1. FreedomForKids July 27, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    I am happy to report that when my daughter was dropped of at the all-girls sleep-away camp she’s been going to for years in Harriman State Park In New York yesterday she was given a great BIG HUG from the director upon signing in. Campers were hugging and shrieking and jumping up and down in ecstatic greetings–some were literally running into each other’s arms, counselors and campers were hugging and laughing–and it’s been like this ever since I was a camper there in the sixties and seventies. My older daughter, who is a counselor there, said she can’t even get a chance to talk to her best friend “A” there for days after camp begins because the campers are ALL OVER her as she is one of the most beloved counselors there. Homesick kids get hugged and cuddled. God, I hope this never changes. I can’t even imagine this camp without the hugs and the touches.

  2. AmyO July 27, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Like FreedomForKids, I’m happy that my daughter goes to a day camp where the adults and children interact normally. The camp director hugs everyone, and the counselors hold hands with the little ones, give hugs, help with sunscreen, etc. My daughter is very affectionate and I can’t imagine telling her not to hug her favorite camp teacher. Even the male counselors get into it and rough house a bit with the kids, in a brotherly way.

    What strikes me is that this is a great way to model appropriate touching for the kids. There are those kids with issues touching, and will grab an arm or a neck or a ponytail because they want to play and don’t know how to do it without hurting others. Having this kind of interaction is helpful for everyone to experience the right way to play around.

  3. Anna July 27, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Now I come to think about it, caring for the very young without touching them seems borderline abusive – young children are very physical beings. Interacting with them purely through the medium of words is asking them to operate like grown-ups instead of the way that comes naturally to them. I assume (I hope!) day-care workers still hold babies and change their diapers; but why should the child suddenly be treated like radioactive waste as soon as he’s toilet-trained? Children’s needs don’t change overnight like that.

    Also, isn’t this strategy a bad idea even from the standpoint of avoiding abuse? I would think that artificially avoiding natural and appropriate forms of touch will, if anything, teach kids strange hang-ups about bodies and touching, and they will fail to learn to distinguish what’s normal and appropriate from what isn’t.

  4. lollipoplover July 27, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Why not just replace those leaders who interact with kids with robots?

  5. theresa hall July 27, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    I’m remember hearing about the daycare case. someone told the cops that owners were fooling around with the kids and next thing you know it is a witch hunt. everyone was so determined to save these kids that they refuse hear anything but what they wanted which was that daycare owners were kid hurting people. the truth is that nothing happen. the kids got brainwashed and some still think something bad was done to them.

  6. A reader July 27, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    We often talk here about evaluating risk. Talk about sweating the small stuff and ignoring the larger. Skin cancer is a very real and very scary risk that we KNOW is directly correlated with sunburns, even as far back as childhood…Thankfully, my kids’ school/daycare doesn’t entirely buy into this. Unfortunately, there are still some issues with my four year old’s class. Basically, the assumption is, since four year olds are potty trained, there’s no reason ever for an adult to ever assist with bathroom functions. Hello, many four year olds still occasionally have accidents, and some still need assistance in the bathroom in general. My son has a minor physical disability and has difficulty pulling his pants up and down and difficulty wiping properly (thankfully, that’s not usually applicable at school). Another mother was telling me her kid actually had a poop accident at school and she was called to come clean him up. Mind you, she’s a working mom, so this meant leaving work, and driving 40 minutes each way. That meant the kid was sitting in her own filth for 40 minutes. Sorry, I bet there’s 100X more danger to a child sitting in filth for nearly an hour than there is in the teacher just cleaning her up.

    Oh, and OT, but feel in need to share: apparently we now need to call CPS for having more than one kid. Because I leave my little one strapped in the stroller on the sidewalk right next to the car while I buckle my big one in. Then, horrors, I leave him alone in the car for 12 whole seconds while I go back to the stroller to get the little guy and bring him back to the car. Then, even worse, I leave them both alone in the car while I load the stroller and the shopping into the trunk. Yes, a nosy busybody yelled at me about this a few days ago, that it’s DANGEROUS for kids to be in the car ALONE. Apparently, alone means adult not physically in the car, and loading the trunk, or other children doesn’t count. So there you have it, it is officially impossible to properly parent more than one kid. I’m pregnant with #3, so the situation is direly hopeless 🙂

  7. Warren July 27, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    I just wouldn’t send my kids to such a sterile place, and I would let them know why.

  8. Emily July 27, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    This isn’t new. I got in trouble when I was fifteen, and volunteering in a YMCA day camp, for putting sunscreen on the kids. After that, I stopped, and sone of them got pretty badly burned (one girl to the point of blistering), so I started again, and got in trouble again. Even now, I think it was worth getting in trouble to protect the children from the Y’s misguided “child protection” measures.

  9. Michelle July 27, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    “Now I come to think about it, caring for the very young without touching them seems borderline abusive – young children are very physical beings. Interacting with them purely through the medium of words is asking them to operate like grown-ups instead of the way that comes naturally to them. I assume (I hope!) day-care workers still hold babies and change their diapers; but why should the child suddenly be treated like radioactive waste as soon as he’s toilet-trained? Children’s needs don’t change overnight like that.”

    This! My oldest daughter volunteers to work with kids, and she has to follow these ridiculous rules, and to me it feels like we are HURTING children by pushing them away.

    @Warren, so what do you do when your whole community acts this way? We can’t just avoid everyone. We have to change things.

  10. Aliza Burton July 27, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    I am a religious school teacher. The day our education board says I’m not allowed to hug any of my students, past or present is the day I will quit teaching.

  11. Mandy July 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Several years ago my son was about 6 years old at the time and he went to a Martial Arts camp. They were going to the pool one afternoon so I put spray-on sunscreen in his bag and told him to ask the camp instructor to help him put it on. When I picked him up that afternoon I could see he was uncomfortable and when I got him home and looked at his back he was red raw. I asked him about putting on sunscreen and he said the instructor told him he couldn’t do it for him. He then left a 6 year old child to play out in the sun all afternoon. No asking another child to help or telling my son to get into the shade. My son couldn’t wear a shirt on his back for 2 days he was in so much pain and all this IDIOT could say to me is “I’m not allowed to touch him” There was so much more this IDIOT could have done but didn’t. I told him what I thought of him and his IDIOTIC rules before pulling my son from the camp.
    Seriously – I trust you with my kid all day and you can’t put a little sunscreen on him??? This world has gone mad.

  12. Havva July 27, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    @Anna, @Michelle, I don’t really think that all schools act standoffish like that toward little kids. My daughter’s daycare/preschool certainly isn’t like that. The teachers sit on the floor in the baby room and often have babies crawling up for a snuggle. Sometimes the teacher has to get extracted when the babies all decide to snuggle one teacher at once and a couple fall asleep on her. The preschoolers rough house with the teachers and tackle them too. And when a kid is sad the teachers come to them and put a hand on their shoulder or an arm around around them and sit with them. The last time I got called to come provide medical assistance for my daughter I found her cradled in a mostly fetal position in her teacher’s arms. When she had diarrhea (at 4) they cleaned her up (twice before I came to take her home). I’ve even seen male teachers help the kids who needed help with toileting.

    Also they apply sunscreen for all the kids. So common sense is still possible.

    The places that won’t abide common sense need to face some protests. I’d certainly want my money back (at minimum) if a camp would rather let a kid burn rather than help with sunscreen. And frankly the place ‘A reader’ talked about that wouldn’t help a 4 year old get cleaned up from a poop accident needs reported to a health department and whatever agency oversees daycares/preschools in that state.

  13. Havva July 27, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    That is really outrageous. The whole point of the spray on sunscreen that I use is that I hate rubbing on sunscreen. There is no touching required, except to get the face (and my daughter can do that herself). I would have been tempted to accused him of being a sadist and unwilling to do his job too.

  14. Rae Pica July 27, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Interesting timing! The latest segment of my radio program, Studentcentricity, is about the need for touch and touching in the classroom. It’s called “Fist Bumps Matter: Five Ways Touching Improves Teaching and Learning.” It’s a great discussion, which your readers can find here: http://www.bamradionetwork.com/student-centric-strategies/3159-fist-bumps-matter-five-ways-touching-improves-teaching-and-learning.

    No-touch policies make me want to scream in frustration!

  15. Renee Anne July 27, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I have both sides of the same coin for this topic. I worked in daycare and I now have a child that will be going to school in a few weeks.

    When I worked in daycare, we had to put sunscreen on the kids, so long as we had a release from the parents saying we could use it (and the parents brought it in). Our kids were 3-5 years old and, quite frankly, needed the help. Unfortunately, we had one child that had massive allergies to damn near everything so we either had to do hers first, every day, or she had to do her own. She did most of her own, except her back and face. We actually had policies that stated we could do sunscreen if we had parental permission. Pretty much every parent gave us permission.

    As for my child, we got notice that teachers weren’t allowed to put sunscreen on the kids and that the kids weren’t allowed to do it themselves. Our options were: put a hat on (because that’s going to cover arms, legs, bare backs, feet, etc.), put a long-sleeved shirt and long pants on (because everyone wants to wear long sleeves and pants when it’s 95F outside), wear sunglasses (really?), or put sunscreen on at home before school (because sunscreen is going to last from 7:30am-12:30pm).

    I’m not happy about the policy and I do plan to tell the school that I think it’s ridiculous. In the meantime, I guess I’m loading him up with sunscreen before school.

  16. Warren July 27, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    If your school won’t even allow your child to apply their own sunscreen get your family doctor involved.

    If they still won’t, and your child gets burned, then do what everyone else does, sue their butts off.

  17. SOA July 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    If you can’t make sure my son has his sunscreen on well then he is not going to your camp. Period. He burns in less than 30 minutes because he is extremely fair skinned.
    I made his teacher at school this year help him apply sunscreen before recess because they go out at the brightest part of the day and he was coming home red. She was awesome about it. All she had to do was put some on the back of his neck and face for me.

    I don’t mess around when it comes to sunburns. You either put sunscreen on my kids or they don’t go.

  18. Eric S July 27, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    Again, this is ultimately about law suits. Nothing more. I’m sure many teachers find it ridiculous, but because their job depends on following school policies, they have no choice but to comply. And schools only have these polices so that they aren’t suddenly sued by litigious parents. A perpetual nightmare battled between the adults, but the kids are the collateral damage. “Safety for kids”? Ya, sure. And I have a magical rock that will make your rich overnight, for $19.99. lol

  19. Andrea Drummond July 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    When I was a camp counselor in the mid-90s I gave a 10 yo camper a piggyback ride (she was on my back and I was holding her legs) and was told my another staff member that I shouldn’t do that. The kids were SO confused and I really didn’t know how to explain it to them. It was embarrassing and humiliating and made me sad for them. And these were kids who, if you were sitting down anywhere, would throw themselves in your lap and just want to cling onto you.

  20. Kimberly July 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    @ Anna

    In the 80s and 90s, when this trend of adopting children from other countries first started to become a thing people were confused because some of the children that had been adopted were exhibiting a range of personality and other social disorders. Researchers and sociologists went in and found that in many of the orphanages in countries such as Romania there were just so many children that the adults just couldn’t take care of them all. Most children spent the majority of their days sitting in their cribs, sometimes with one or two other babies or children. They were rarely held, hardly spoken to, and had little interaction with any adults. The effects of this type of atmosphere led to children who are unable to interact with others on any sort of personal level because their emotional growth was so stunted by the environment they grew up in.

    So, while I may not classify teachers not touching their students as abusive simply because 90% of these kids will go home to families that will touch and feel and express feelings and emotions, I can see where it can eventually lead to an abusive atmosphere. The pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction now.

    What’s scary is that it’s becoming no longer enough to tell the adults and teachers “hands off”. At my kid’s schools, they are not allowed to hug EACH OTHER. My daughter is forbidden from hugging her friends which boggles my mind simply because when I was in Jr. High it was customary and the “in” thing to do for friends to hug each other when saying hello or goodbye.

    My thoughts are that this is bad in ways that administrators and society hasn’t even considered. Growing up, I was taught the swimsuit rule for touching. It’s a rule I passed on to my own children while also trying to teach them that they are the ones in control of their own bodies. They don’t have to touch anyone they don’t want to and don’t have to allow anyone to touch them either. If they don’t want to give Grandpa a hug, that’s their decision.

    If kids are unable to learn to control the access to their bodies because the rules are so strict as to allow NO touching at all, how will they ever learn the confidence or the basic ability to determine who can touch them? Or worse, the difference between what is acceptable and what isn’t?

    In the effort to make kids “safer”, aren’t we putting them more at risk because we’ve taken away part of their learning process?

  21. Daniel July 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    As a scout leader in the UK (scouting over here is mixed so we have girls and boys) I regulary assist the youngest in putting on sunscreen when the weather warrants it…. With the older ones I will simply squirt/spray a dollop on their hands and suggest they get a freind to help rub it into the harder to reach places (and then do the same for their friend)

    Our safeguarding policies basically are all about appropriateness of any physical contact with a focus on how things could be misconstrued by an onlooker…. Provided that you do it within sight of another adult there is nothing inappropriate about helping someone with Suncream in the areas they can’t reach themselves

  22. John July 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    My niece teaches young autistic children and enjoys the challenge. One of the mothers told my niece that her little boy, who was 5, at times had a difficult time urinating. She said that he kind of “freezes up”. So the mother told my niece that if Larry had a difficult time peeing, she should just tap on his penis a couple of times while he’s in front of the toilet and the pee would then flow out. But my niece told her “NOOOOO, I will not do that”!!!!!

    I can kind of understand my niece’s discomfort in doing something like that even though the mother told her to do so, but school policy and teachers being afraid to put sunscreen on a kid is getting way over the top and a complete lack of common sense in my opinion.

  23. Karon July 27, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Not only does it not make sense in the moment, in the scope of being human, to not touch these kids, it potentially creates problems down the road.

    Childhood is all about learning how the world works. If children aren’t allowed to be touched in any way by non-family adults, how will those teenagers and young adults know if a touch is truly unwelcome (either as the toucher or the touched) or just a new, potentially awkward experience? If we as a society don’t encourage comfortable, healthy touch in childhood, there is no basis of comparison as those kids get older and need to know what is and isn’t ok in a sexual relationship.

    Let’s not forget that most sexual abuse occurs inside families – which means that only allowing family to touch kids is actually HELPING the people most likely to cause harm.

  24. lollipoplover July 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    “Instead they stand in front of the girl and put the sunscreen on theirselves while the girl watches so she can mimic their movements and see where they are missing.”

    You mean like a mime??

    I hate sunscreening kids. But with sunny days in summer, it is a critical preventative health measure, as important as drinking water. Sunburns in childhood dramatically increase the risk of skin cancer in adulthood.
    This I thought was a no-brainer.

    Of course parents can send kids already sunscreened to camp and preschool. But sunscreen has to be reapplied to be effective over time, and kids often need to be reminded and helped and TOUCHED, like it’s a dirty word, with sunscreen for their health.

    What bothered me a bit about this- we SHOULD be teaching kids how to apply their own sunscreen. I get that the no touching reason is truly absurd becaus no one can get every surface unless they are a contortionist and human contact is actually necessary. So have the kids put the sunscreen on each other. Keep those creepy leaders in mittens so they keep their hands off the children.

    My kids swim every day for swim team and part of their morning routine is lathering up with sunscreen. It’s like brushing their teeth. They have to learn sometime, but until they do, you have to help them apply and touch them.
    To not do this is child abuse, in my opinion.

  25. sigh July 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    One of the jokes my 14-year-old son has been enjoying for the last 5 years or so is to yell “PEDOPHILE” when I try to hug him or pat him.

    It was worst when he was 9 or 10, but he still does it sometimes. I understand that when a kid starts puberty, it can be awkward to receive touch from adults… I had always been quite cuddly with my dad, but once I turned 11, I went through a few years of shying away, just because I felt uncomfortable in my changing body. My 11-year-old daughter, right on schedule, seems to be shying away occasionally too.

    But there is lots of touching amongst my kids and their friends, and happily, I’ve seen either teachers or coaches hugging and patting my kids.

    It’s been researched: without touch, we die. Truly. It’s a vital human need. Lack of touch won’t kill you as fast as lack of water or food, but it kills, all the same. Babies die from lack of touch more quickly than 4 or 5-year-olds, or 50-year-olds. But I believe the younger you go, the more acute the need is.

    TOUCH THE KIDS. Just not in the bathing suit areas.

    Enough said.

  26. Jeni July 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    It might seem ridiculous to us. However, there is a very large contingent of folks outside this forum who think it’s perfectly sensible. And unfortunately simply being incensed won’t change their perspective.

    As one of those experienced teachers, I am used to a room full of kids’ parents having very different paradigms. Once, because of a hug on a particularly difficult day, one of my student’s mom yells “I don’t send my kids to school so you can touch them!”. A different time when a 2nd grader refused to board his bus to go home I offered my hand and led him to the bus; mom called to let the principal and me know that “the touching must stop!”. I held the kid’s hand for goodness sakes. Big sigh.

    Not only do I need my job, but I also feel like I can help make a difference in the lives of the kids I teach, so I want my job. So, less touching. I do things like handshaking, returning side hugs initiated by the kids, fist bumps, high fives.

    On the sunscreen topic, my job prohibits me from administering medication. Sunscreen, bug spray, etc. are considered medication by schools. Now, I suppose the school nurse could apply those things with the proper paperwork and hoops jumped through, just as she can what we all consider medications.

  27. Nicole July 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    When will imagining sex-crazed pedophiles lurking inside of every human on the planet become a recognized mental illness?

  28. Uli July 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    If we had the same regulations in Germany my wife and I probably would go to jail now,
    For the 8th Birthday of our son we went with six kids to the mountaisn for the weekend. We all (and the parents of one of the boys who helped us supervising) slept in one (!) room in a Mountain Hut of the German Alpine Club (DAV). We helped the kids get changed, we put on sunscreen, we helped them with their helmets when we went climbing, we comforted them when they hurt themselves and we cleaned the chocolate cake from their faces.
    There are nor regulations that forbid this, there are no parents (we know) that would not feel comfortable with that. However, in the press we unfortunately see more and more stories about not-free ranging and more and more parents going the no-touch way…

  29. hineata July 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Some of this ‘no-touching’ for us arises directly out of the Christchurch Civic Creche case, another ridiculous ‘child abuse’ case proven to be nonsense, that involved several kinds of miscarriages of justice.

    I still give back hugs given and will definitely help apply sunscreen, as I would imagine all female teachers would do here. I really do understand the reluctance of men to do so….there have been multiple cases, not just the Christchurch one, with men accused of inappropriate touching for normal interactions.

    What makes this really interesting for me is at the same time as we are reluctant to hug kids etc at school, we have ever increasing interactions with marae groups (Maori meeting places) which require everyone to either press noses and foreheads (called a hongi, and involving at the same time at least a hand on each other’s shoulders to guide the head, or pain results LOL)
    or cheek kisses between both sexes. Kids would not be forced to participate, though it does become a peer pressure thing probably, but I have never seen a kid refuse. Mixed messages? Most kids seem to love the whole thing because finally here is normal human interaction….I. e. people touching each other in a non-sexual fashion.

  30. anonymous mom July 27, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    The essay Lenore linked to was great, and I don’t think we can underestimate how deeply the Satanic-abuse hysteria of the 80s/90s (as well as the recovered-memory incest hysteria)–despite both being totally debunked–has affected our culture. Many of our beliefs about childhood sexual abuse seem to be derived from “insights” gleaned at the height of these panics, and we didn’t adjust our views once we realized that the theories of memory and trauma on which they were based were entirely unscientific and wrong.

    I think part of the issue is that we believe–because this is how it’s often portrayed on TV and movies and books, because it makes a better story–that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by super-intelligent predatory pedophiles, men and women who hold highly respected roles in the community but have a secret life where they groom and prey on many small children, who they threaten into secrecy. (That was the story behind most of the Satanic ritual abuse and recovered memory incest narratives.) So we’re constantly on guard that some responsible, kind, helpful, stable, and trusted adult is a secret predator grooming our kids.

    However, I’m not sure that’s reality. Most of the school-based sexual abuse I’m aware of either involves students and other students (usually around the same age) or younger teachers (often women in their 20s, lately) and post-pubescent male students, often 15-18. Now, those are not good situations! But, there is, I think, a vast difference between the preschool teacher grooming a four year old and a 24 year old teacher having sex with a willing 16 year old student who started sending her flirty texts. The first is genuinely a predator; the latter is a person who gave into temptation when they absolutely should not have.

    And that seems to be the case with a lot of what is classified as sexual abuse. If often involves young adults and willing post-pubescent teens who stupidly and wrongly engage in a relationship that is not-uncommonly even initiated by the younger person (which OF COURSE the older person should have refused–the point isn’t that it’s okay, just that it’s different than actively preying on children). It often involves an older child or young teen and another, younger child–in those cases, the older child is almost never even old enough to be a pedophile, and it’s most often an issue of lack of boundaries and impulsivity, not serial predation or serious pathology. And, when we do see adults molesting pre-pubescent children, even then we often see that the perpetrator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, had a mental illness, or was cognitively impaired–again, these are people acting impulsively, and generally not people who are trusted, respected members of the community. (Like all abuse, sexual abuse is much, much more common among those living in poverty, rather than those at the “top” of society. But, we like to ignore that, because that would mean that abuse–including sexual abuse–is largely a social problem, not one of individual pathology, and that truly addressing it would be addressing poverty and structural inequality, but that’s a different topic.)

    Are there cases of uber-intelligent, sneaky, serial predators who actively seek out and groom victims? Sure. There are also thieves who pull of Ocean’s Eleven-style heists. But, those just aren’t the norm. Many robberies are committed inpulsively by addicts and the mentally ill and young people who are acting stupidly, not by people who spend week or months planning the perfect crime. I think if we recognized that sexual abuse does not generally follow the “pattern” we saw in the discredited-ritual abuse cases–adults who had access to children via their jobs planning and carrying out horrific and repeated acts of abuse then used their power to cover them up–but the pattern of other crimes, where people are young, impulsive, stupid, and often impaired either due to substance abuse or mental illness.

  31. Diana Green July 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    We elect our Legislators, we write our regulations, based on the premise that mass hysteria and knee jerk reactions rule the day. If only one child is saved from the clutches of a Satanic cult, Whew! We’ve done our job to the Max!

    That one child saved is worth more than all those kids who suffer from excruciating sunburns, and all those kids who don’t get hugs and high fives.

    Who got us in this mess? We did! Next time how about we vote for people who have spent some time whipping snotty noses and poopy behinds and cleaning vomit off little chins?

    More women at all levels of Government would be a start. Nothing against lawyers–provided they have spent some time actually engaged in reality.

  32. ebohlman July 27, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    I suspect part of this is due to rules made by insurance companies in the aftermath of the gigantic payouts from suits against Roman Catholic archdioceses that covered up sexual abuse by priests.

    Part of it is the widespread conviction that of all the bad things that could happen to a child, sexual abuse is the absolute worst, and therefore any risk to a child as a result of attempts intended to prevent sexual abuse is acceptable.

  33. Diana Green July 27, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    Meant to say: “wiping”, you know! “wiping” noses.
    “Whipping” would be for “defeating” politicians who do not help us understand the long-range implications of laws and regs rushed through under stressful, panicky circumstances–often “whipped” into fury by the media.

  34. JJ July 27, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    @Renee Anne, hold up. Your kid isn’t allowed apply sunscreen? What the what? Was any reason offered for this? And is this age-specific?

  35. Juluho July 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    I spent a lot of time at my kids school and while they don’t have this kind of ppolicy, I’ve noticed that too many kids come to school to be loved. A lot of the younger ones crave hugs and the girls are always playing with each other’s hair, they hug any visitor, sit on laps of story time volunteers. My heart breaks for them because they crave validation and young kids are really tactile. Personally, I always tried to give side hugs or high fives and never let anyone sit on my lap. But I can see how these policy would hurt those kids from less than ideal home lives who really crave that attention.
    Both BSA and GSA are very viglent about adult-child interactions. BSA has very clear rules about touch, no child can be alone with an adult ‘two deep leadership’ etc. All leader have to take youth protection training, and every year the kids have to watch a video about good touch bad touch.
    Girl Scouts don’t go that far but they are very stand offish about dad volunteers, brothers, etc.
    Is it an overreaction? Meh. I don’t know. Parents need to feel comfortable and leaders need to be mindful and the BSA has to cover all their legal bases. Is it likely a child will be harmed by a teacher, volunteer, etc? No the stats clearly show it’s usually family but certainly it happens.

    About the policy some schools are using that restricts even students hugging; I WISH! There would be a lot less lice! I’m constantly telling my daughter to stop hugging people lol. I kid, I kid.

  36. lollipoplover July 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    How is intentionally allowing a child to get a sunburn (because of bureaucratic paralysis of common sense) by not applying sunscreen any different from a cigarette burn on a child? I realize they are different degrees of burn, but one is a stereotypical one of child abuse and the other??? Burns are burns and both are very painful.

    I just can’t see checking compassion and care at the door and following these rules.
    How do you refuse to comfort or console a child and not feel like a total asshole? I honestly couldn’t do this and would refuse, it goes against every fiber in my body.

  37. Havva July 27, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    It’s strange to me that you say “too many kids come to school to be loved.” Maybe it is an issue that they are too old for the behaviors. But my daughter’s pre-school classmates certainly want hugs and to sit in laps, and it doesn’t make me think in the least that they aren’t getting enough love or “coming to school to be loved.” I’ve seen the homes and families of a number of these kids and none have struck me as unloving. It’s just that little kids are creatures who express trust and comfort and joy physically, and why should they have to turn off that age appropriate expression?

    I often get hugs from other kids (especially my daughter’s friends). The only times I don’t let kids sit on my lap is when there are too many trying to do so. When I come in to pick up my daughter she and/or her friends often brings me a book and crawl in my lap and I read to the kid(s)… and as long as I don’t wind up with 3 or more kids trying to pile into my lap I let them stay. The teachers usually say nothing. When they do it is “thanks” because sometimes my little reading sessions have calmed a play session that was getting a little out of hand, and allowed the teachers to restore order or sweep or something.

  38. Juluho July 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    haava, little kids are so tactile and all like affection but in our area there is a clear difference between the kids who are just ‘loving’ and kids needy for it. That’s what I mean, the are coming to school to be loved because they aren’t getting attention and affection at home. And by too many, I think one is too many.

  39. Nicole R. July 27, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    I hate these rules! I’m a substitute teacher, and definitely run into times when it would be common sense to touch a child, but we’re taught to avoid it. – When they fall on the playground, for instance, offering a hand to help them up teaches compassion. When the littler ones see you after you haven’t been there in a while, their natural instinct is to come up and hug you. It break my heart to brush them off. – I think in trying to avoid the “appearance” of something harmful, we’re actually DOING something harmful by denying them completely normal contact.

  40. Jason July 27, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    Personally, I pity the camp counselor who has one set of parents hysterically angry because he/she didn’t apply sunscreen to their child, and another set hysterically angry because he/she did. At least the potential legal repercussions are less for the former.

    On a lighter note, this reminds me of the YouTube video where 2 young Aussie guys race to see which one can apply sunscreen quickest to a 14 y.o bikini-clad girl volunteer. Towards the end, the “m.c” says something like “We just checked to see if it was legal to be putting sunscreen onto 14 year-old girls. It’s not!!”

  41. James Pollock July 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    All this fuss over sunscreen.

    Why, it wasn’t a week ago that everyone here was saying how important it is to shove kids out the door and have them outside all day… like there’s no dangers to them outdoors.

  42. Warren July 27, 2015 at 6:47 pm #


    How would more women in elected or appointed positions make things better?

    Is it not the overprotective moms, who happen to be women, that created all these problems starting with “all men are dangerous”?

  43. Warren July 27, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    What, you had your legal butt handed to you by Donna, so now you are just resorting to troll like commenting?

  44. Anna July 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    James Pollock: No the fuss is not just “over sunscreen.” Sunscreen just makes the absurdity particularly obvious because our society is on the whole so hysterical about the danger of sun exposure, admittedly perhaps excessively so. If you’ll look over the comments, you’ll notice that many if not all of us are equally (if not more) concerned by the fact that these policies prevent natural and beneficial forms of human contact like: hugging friends, hugging children who’ve been hurt, congratulating with high-fives and backslapping, calming over-excited children with a friendly hand on the shoulder, playing rock-paper-scissors, playing duck-duck-goose or leapfrog, spotting a kid who’s learning to stand on his head, helping a kid learn to hold a bat correctly, taking care of bathroom mishaps, etc., etc., etc.

  45. Emily Morris July 27, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    James, are you seriously in favor of policies prohibiting the application of sunscreen? The matter is really only part of the discussion here.

  46. JP Merzetti July 27, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    If a trusted adult in a position of responsible authority is removed from the entire lexicon of human contact for any reason whatsoever – then they are not trusted, not responsible, and only defined as “adult” in terms of the percieved, implied, or aleged damage they may be capable of doing.
    In other words, they are hardly adult, at all, in any conceivable definition of the term.

    And children aren’t exactly human anymore. They are instead “owned” properties and chattels, commodities and strange creatures deemed unfit for the normal latitudes of human experience.
    They are great staggering bundles of little lambie-sacrifices – to the great God Risk/Aversion.

    After all, our fondest future aspirations are certainly that we all eventually become as perfect machines, database receptacles, with womderfully re-designed and socially engineered responses, hardwired and softwired toward a sublime correctness, that did not, does not, and never will exist (except in the most adolescent of fantasies.) Avatars be damned to perdition.

    Children are of course, infinitely ‘touchable.’
    Always have been, and always will be.
    In all the obviously appropriate ways that reponsible and trustworthy adults are capable of.
    For all the known reasons that have been worked out through the moral and ethical evolution of humankind.
    Think about that, for a moment.

    And then ponder for another moment………..what do these rules really say to children?
    That we don’t know what the blue bloody blazes we’re doing anymore. We’re confused, bewildered……in short – childlike.
    I’ve said it enough times. Kids are kids. They are not adults.
    That is entirely why they need adults…………to be adults.
    (Otherwise, who will? The family dog?)
    Hmmm. Something in that………………

    I suppose I could get all academic and medical here for a moment, and at risk of playing armchair psyche –
    what role does tactile expression play in the basic model of human development?
    Humans are “touchy” for a reason.
    And much of that reason is woven right into the heartland of our hard wiring.
    So how is it, exactly, that you explain to a kid that they are too young to be human?

    You may just as well admit that what you really can’t explain to them at all, are the thousand and one subtle differences, nuances, and inner understandings that build a young sensibility toward being able to tell the difference between good and bad (which thankfully, is still a choice that belongs to them.)
    Where did that stop being part of human development?

    Just add water at age 21 and hit the launch button?

  47. JP Merzetti July 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    One more crack at it.
    Two points:
    (both mentioned by others, here.)

    Children learn things from everyone in their community. Including compassion, caring, responsive ways to show that you are to be trusted, give a damn, are capable of confidence and appropriate response.
    If adults can’t do this with children by SHOWING them how it’s done – then some of the most basic things in life get reduced down to pale and pathetic theories in textbooks.
    No textbook can ever teach anyone how to love. That’s not how we learn.

    That one comment that mentioned kids coming to school for love. I was all over that one like a dirty shirt. Caused me to sit up like a pointer and pay attention.
    Why would they do that?
    Because they’re not finding it elsewhere, that’s why.
    And it hurts.
    I remember.
    It’s pretty simple. Pretty basic. Not rocket science. Not some-other-kind-of-complicated-reason.
    Why wouldn’t they look for what they don’t have?
    They haven’t learned how to trick themselves into believing that they don’t need it.
    That it’s not important after all.
    Of course it is.

    Some of the most important non-family adults in my life were comfortably tactile.
    What? No horror stories to tell?
    Not a-one.
    Lessons learned? That imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.

    And would I have foregone that education for someone else’s idea of protection?
    Not on your life. Not a livin’ chance.

  48. Elizabeth July 27, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

    I volunteered at an after school program for impoverished and at risk children in Peru. Many of these children were being neglected, abused physically and likely some sexually in their homes. One of the rules was as much physical contact as possible. That’s right, we were supposed to hug the children, let them sit on our laps, let them hang off of us, put our arms around them. The philosophy was that they needed to experience positive human touch because at home so many were either not being touched at all or the only touch they received was abusive. Most of the international volunteers had a really hard time with this and we were constantly being told by the director to be more affectionate.

  49. James Pollock July 27, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    “James Pollock: No the fuss is not just ‘over sunscreen.’”

    “James, are you seriously in favor of policies prohibiting the application of sunscreen?”

    Please get your sarcasm meters adjusted. You’re getting readings that are way off.

  50. Warren July 28, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    Well James, maybe you should take a creative writing course. If more than one person fails to see what you wrote as sarcasm, then the obvious is that you cannot write sarcasm.

    Seeing as how you rarely ever actually show an original thought, opinion or comment, how are people to know what you are trying to write. The vast majority of your drivel is just quoting other comments.

  51. SanityAnyone? July 28, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    If I didn’t get my good-night hug from my nice counselor the summer I turned 9 at overnight camp, I think I would have been a wreck. That hug was so reassuring. We loved brushing the counselor’s long, red hair (she could sit on it), and she brushed ours – grooming! There was always rough play, hand-holding and lots of other touching at camp with counselors of both genders and we absolutely loved it. As pre-teens we even flirted innocently. We were kids away from home and accustomed to touch. There was bad touch at camp; I was sexually assaulted memorably two different years, in both cases by a child or group of children. Then, I ran crying into the arms of the counselors I trusted most. Very sad for a generation who can’t be touched.

  52. sexhysteria July 28, 2015 at 3:11 am #

    Here’s a great book published by Yale University Press: “Making a Place for Pleasure in Early Childhood Education” by Joseph Tobin, which specifically attacks the hysteria over touch in preschools.

  53. Tiny Tim July 28, 2015 at 3:32 am #

    Hugging was forbidden in my high school. I get (not even sure I agree with, but ok it’s not crazy) limiting PDA in such a setting, but simple hugging is a thing people do. It’s normal.

  54. Shannon July 28, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    I was treated like a horrible parent because I opted out of letting my then 2 yo daughter go to a storytime at daycare where the theme was teaching kids that nobody should ever ever ever touch her anywhere a bathing suit covers. …
    1) she wears 1 piece bathing suits which makes even a basic hug completely off limits
    2) she was not even potty trained yet!
    She got REALLY bad diaper rashes. It took 2 weeks for me to finally stop getting harrassed by the “teachers” there by asking if she was volunteering to be the first person who got called on “bad touch” because my baby girl’s diaper change hurt her.

    I probably got the lecture 8 times about how there are “bad people” out there – do I want my little girl to be raped?

  55. Jeff July 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Yep. I had that policy at a private Christian school I worked at for a year. I was constantly on edge about being perceived as a pedophile by my boss, another teacher, or one of the many adults who had nothing better to do than watch our children outside and report any small thing they felt we were doing wrong to licensing while their children were running wild in the street.

  56. Jeff July 28, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    Oh and my high school became really hung up on sexual harassment to the point that bumping into each other in the hallway could be considered sexual harassment. Don’t know if they still have the policy anymore, but I remember everyone holding back laughter when they had a big student assembly on the subject.

  57. Thea July 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    We just had vacation bible school at my church and all but two of the kids in my preschool class were strangers (non-church members) to me. I spent the whole week hugging, touching, kissing and holding those kids. I don’t know how I’d have done that job without being able to touch kids. Craziness.

  58. meg July 29, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    My daughter was at camp last week & now that I think of it I have no idea if that is the policy where she was. She *did* come home excited that she’d learned to put sunscreen on herself. (I was actually a little embarrassed about this…I hadn’t realized that I’ve just been doing it for her because it’s easier to hit them both up with it at once before we go out in the sun…) But I don’t know if it was just a matter of it being easier for the girls to do it themselves than the counselors to do it for *every* girl, every time. I’ll have to ask her.

    When I was a Girl Scout camp counselor (20-25 years ago now), there was so much contact between the girls & the counselors. Girls love hugs. They love holding hands with people. I don’t think I walked from point A to point B a single time any of those summers with a free hand; if you had one, someone would hold it! Part of the sense of community – I remember this as a camper – was how much unconditional love and affection you felt from the staff. Our camp director when I was a child was *famous* for her hugs; so many years later I still remember how special you felt when you got a hug from Bernie…

    Anyway…I am a Girl Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher at my UU church, and an unabashed hugger. I’ve had children fall asleep in my lap during a meeting or a class, after a particularly long day. I’ve never had a complaint, and the day I do will be the last day I volunteer in that capacity. I cannot imagine having to be standoffish with a child who wants a hug or a lap to sit in, and if I ever were forced to be, that would be it for me as a volunteer.

  59. lollipoplover July 29, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    Anyone see this? Again, I fail to see the difference in letting a child severely burn under the sun and putting out a cigarette on their arm.


  60. KittyKat July 30, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    This. Is. Ridiculous.

  61. Angelo Bonavera August 1, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Pedophiles are not child molesters. I know women are threatened by little girls but MAP aren’t dangerous. rather pedophilia hate is dangerous.

  62. Helen August 3, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    I’m excited that they even let the kids bring sunscreen. I’m a teacher and last year for a field trip, the students were directed in the official flier to put sunscreen on before school and not bring it with them. (I might have accidentally told my students something different.) Sunscreen only lasts two hours and the sun doesn’t get to be bad until 10:00 AM. So it was all worn off by the time the poor kids really needed it. Half of them went home beet red. I felt so bad for them.
    The administrators are afraid that the kids are going to drink it or have some sort of allergic reaction to it. Which is dumb, but I did babysit for a woman once who tried to explain to me how sun screen–and not UV rays–caused skin cancer and forbade me to put it on her child, so maybe not as dumb as I would like to think. Helicopter parents scare schools.