Affection in schools Public displays: Consistency is important in discouraging inappropriate behavior.

May 07, 1998

GIVE A principal a choice between dealing with violence in school or public displays of affection -- PDAs as they are commonly known -- and the choice is easy. PDAs would win hands down.

Even so, the issue commands a lot of attention from school administrators, and for good reason. Appropriate behavior is as important in school as in the workplace. Kissing or fondling at work is not likely to be tolerated. Nor should it be at school.

But enforcing such rules can be tricky. Witness the case of two juniors expelled from a Catholic school in Frederick for several minutes of demonstrative behavior in a hallway after school. The students and their parents subsequently filed a federal lawsuit, which was later dropped.

Ideally, such incidents would never get as far as expulsion, much less become a federal case. It helps when administrators are clear about their expectations of students -- and when they make clear the reasons for such rules.

It also helps when the enforcement is swift and consistent. Then students are more likely to learn that the real issue is not affectionate behavior, or even the degree of affection shown, but the importance of behavior that is appropriate to the place.

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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