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mattbrowne's avatar

Isn't it tragic that our terror of pedophilia has led to teachers not being allowed to touch or hold distressed children?

Asked by mattbrowne (31735points) November 11th, 2011

“Such prohibitions could only have been made by people who haven’t the faintest idea of how our psychology works, what happens in our brains when we are distressed, and what we need from others by way of comfort. There is increasing evidence that young children may find nurseries more distressing than has previously been recognized, and one possible reason for this is whether or not these children are getting enough physical affection.” (From Paul Gilbert: The Compassionate Mind)

Any thoughts?

Isn’t it like ending all air travel and stop people from boarding an airplane? Because of the small risk of a terrorist blowing up the plane?

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35 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

Tragic, yes, but I’d say it’s more a fear of lawsuits than of pedophilia that’s behind it.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, it is. Classic letting one bad apple spoil the barrel.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s bullshit! And I don’t believe a lot of schools and daycare places are doing it. It’s simply inhumane. We already have too little touch in our society. The impact of that is much worse than the impact of a small number of cases of pedophilia. And I would argue that both too little touch and inappropriate touch are abuse.

mattbrowne's avatar

@thorninmud – You mean if a school discarded their no-touch policy they would be sued for doing so? Because even without a policy and lots of appropriate touching and hugging, abusive touch would remain illegal. A teacher could still be punished.

JLeslie's avatar

I would think pre-school teachers still do touch children to some extent? From kindergarten on I don’t think there is much need for touch in a school setting.

thorninmud's avatar

@mattbrowne This kind of policy, like so many of the draconian measures implemented in reaction to terrorism, is really about shielding institutions from charges that they didn’t do enough to prevent tragedies. It’s partly a message for public consumption to portray the institution as having zero tolerance for even the perception of hanky-panky. But, though it doesn’t actually prevent abuse, it at least gives the institution something to point to in case of abuse as proof that it took a serious stance.

In both cases, the institution is protecting itself in the guise of protecting the kids. For this purpose, over-reaction is better than under-reaction. That’s not what’s in the best interest of the kids, unfortunately.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Well, don’t you think 8-year-old kids need a hug too sometimes when they are distressed?

rojo's avatar

Yes, it saddens me. I am not a touchy-feely type of person but we all need human comfort and contact sometimes particularly when we are younger.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes I do, but how often is a child that distressed? If they miss a hug during a few distressed moments a year I am not overly concerned I don’t think. I can’t remember teachers hugging me. I do believe in the necessity of touch, so you don’t have to convince me of that. Won’t the parents be called if something very bad has happened?

Mind you I don’t think a no touch policy stops pedophilia. The pediphiles are not going to care about a policy, and the children are probably unaware of the policy. The policy is there to protect the teachers more than the kids I’m guessing.

The teachers can still help a child up, hold their hand, tend to a wound, can’t they?

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree it is very sad. I was lucky that I felt very safe with all of my teachers (especially at primary/junior school when you most want to feel safe) and I was hugged by them when I was sad or hurt.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I don’t think that happens everywhere. My daughters both receive attention and “comfort touch” from their teachers. My oldest is in 5th grade and her teacher hugs her all the time, squeezes her shoulders, pats her on the back, etc… She does that with all her students, and they adore her.

Coloma's avatar

I remember my ex husband telling me years ago when he was working as a fire alarm tech. and installing a new system at an elementary school over the summer, about his discomfort with several young boys, maybe 8 or 9 years old, wanting to hang around and watch him work.

The children had followed him out to his work van and were curious about all the gadgets in his van, asking questions etc. and he was terrified that someone would think he was a pervert.

I remember thinking how sad it was to have to think that way instead of just being comfortable and enjoying the kids, maybe teaching them something.

My ex was an ass but he certainly wasn’t a child molester. lol

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes, it is tragic. Our notion of risk is distorted and focused in the wrong direction in terms of child abuse. Though we know most abusers are within children’s homes, we still get so paranoid about ‘the pedophiles out there’.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma My husband had that worry about a year ago. We were at a mall near us that has a green space, and children were running around. One fell down very near my husband, and seemed to hurt himself a little. The parents were about 150 feet away. I started to walk over I was about 10 feet from my husband, and then the parent started to run over. I asked him why he didn’t help the boy, and he said he was worried what people might think in a park with children. It shocked me. He is not like that when we are at private parties or other group setting where we know some or all of the people there, but the stranger in the park thing he had a second thought.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Yes. too bad it is. :-(

Blackberry's avatar

I’d rather not get sued and have my life ruined. Leave the consoling to the parents.

janbb's avatar

Yes – I think it is tragic. It is terrible how we let fear and a poisoned environment lessen our humanity. I was in a new Indian restaurant the other night and asked the proud owner what spices were in a certain dish. He half-hugged me and laughingly said, “I’m not going to tell you.” I was delighted by his spontaneity.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@janbb The owner of my local Indian restaurant and his staff are some of the most wonderful, compassionate people I have ever met. They seem to see the best in people and I often think that us Brits could learn a lot from them.

janbb's avatar

@Leanne1986 Yes – it is a generalization but many seem to have retained their warmth and humanity.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@janbb I meant that we could learn a lot from these particular people that work in my local restaurant, I don’t know enough Indian people to know if they are all this warm.

Coloma's avatar

In general most Hindu people do practice living in their Buddha nature. ;-)

janbb's avatar

@Coloma But Hinduism and Buddhism are two different religions.

wordsmythe's avatar

I think it has a lot to do with people who grew up with this and still don’t know about it.

DominicX's avatar

I have a vague memory of sitting on my teacher’s lap in elementary school. What a scandal that would’ve caused now…

AmWiser's avatar

Sadly, it’s another new day in our world, one we’ll have to adapt to. Kinda like the sexual revolution…then came Aids.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s not “the threat of pedophilia” that has caused school systems to institute such policies. It’s “the threat of being sued for that” which has led to the policies you decry. This is also why so many schools have “doors always open” policies, and policies that don’t allow adults to be alone with children at any time.

In any case I think the word “tragic” is hyperbolic. It’s ‘unfortunate’ that the world is so litigious now in these respects, but not ‘tragic’. Tragic should be reserved for calamities that kill people (whether retail or wholesale). “Not hugging a child who needs some consoling” is not a tragedy.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie Sad as it is, I think your husband was right on the park thing. Ya never know what the parents are like.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora Yeah, it wasn’t that I was annoyed with his reaction, just surprised, in that as a woman I don’t worry about it, and knowing my husband it was not typical, usually he would help if we were in a different setting. The child was not seriously injured, just shaken, so I feel like his response made sense in the end.

fizzbanger's avatar

I volunteer at an elementary school, and, not surprisingly, we had to watch a lot of videos about avoiding touching, recognizing abused kids, etc. I was sad about having to awkwardly brush off a hug from one of my students (3rd grade boy).

Also, schools are doing this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@AmWiser – Adaptation to abandoning basic needs which have become part of the human blueprint for the past thousands of years is very difficult. It’s almost like adapting to a world without shelter and nutritious food. People might survive but their bodies and minds suffer.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I think it’s tragic that more and more people seem to be expecting teachers at schools to parent other people’s children. Personally, I remember preferring teachers to keep their hands to themselves around me. I didn’t even feel all that comfortable when teachers asked me about my personal life when they felt like I was feeling down…just because I was acting too quiet for their liking. Maybe other people feel differently.

mattbrowne's avatar

I agree, @AnonymousGirl. As a general rule, teachers and professors should not touch distressed young women who are 21. My question is about children who are not yet as mature and self-reliant as you are.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Oh, okay. Well, if the child is super young, then I can definitely understand that. Hugs are important, for say, a young child who is 4 or 5. It would be so much easier if paedophilia just did not exist… period. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and it is understandable why there are parents who are frightened at the idea of other people doing something as simple as giving their children a hug.

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