One Northeast, D.C. elementary School has put a climate of hypersensitivity about child safety and adult touching aside by making hugs a deliberate part of the school’s plan.
A tweet celebrating teacher appreciation week sent by DC Public Schools Wednesday shows Noyes Elementary School teacher Arielle Horton welcoming her first-graders to class with hugs for all.
“I think it really helps them to enjoy themselves and enjoy school,” Horton said.
“She hugs us every morning and I love my teacher,” said first-grader Elijah Atcheson.
Principal Winston Cox says hugs are offered as part of a deliberate strategy to create a supportive culture at Noyes to support academic achievement and personal growth.
“We talk here at Noyes about changing the reactive brain to a responsive and reflective brain,” Noyes said.
Eye contact and respectful personal interactions are emphasized.
Embracing touching is a contrast to the current atmosphere in many other areas, according to labor union officials in Prince George’s County Maryland.
Some employees there claim a strict new policy on reporting suspected wrongdoing by staff has resulted in hundreds of unfounded allegations against adult staff and a chilly environment.
“I fear for my job,” said bus driver Jossalyn Ford, who says many of her co-workers now hesitate to touch any child who climbs aboard their busses.
At Noyes, Cox acknowledges the sensitivity to physical contact between adults and children in a school environment.
Teachers and administrators offer hugs but never insist. Cox is convinced hugs add to a positive learning environment.