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No Contact Policy at Duveneck

Original post made by DuveneckDad, Duveneck/St. Francis, on May 3, 2007

Palo Alto schools are currently in the process of performing Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) Program to gauge both school and individual student performance

Amid this important, but stressful time for students, Duveneck principal Larry Thomas called an all school assembly yesterday and instituted a new "hands off" policy. In an email sent to the Duveneck community this morning, Larry provided the following examples of actions that are now prohibited by the policy on school grounds: “hugs, arms around each other, holding hands”.

Activities that are now forbidden at Duveneck include playing tag, duck-duck-goose, ring-around-the-posey, touch football, and shaking hands.

The questions the Duveneck community is asking themselves today are:

(1) Is this the type of sterile environment we want our children to grow up and be educated in?

(2) Should this be a priority for in the school’s administration, especially in the middle of the Star Testing weeks?

(3) Is the administration and leadership of Duveneck in synch and in touch with the parent community?

Comments (30)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 10:37 am

What about High 5s?

Not to make fun of this, I think this is terrible.

Question 1. Was any rationale given for this?

Question 2. Was any indication given as to this being a general PAUSD policy or just Duvenick?

Question 3. Have you contacted 25 Churchill about this? If so, please let us know what results you get.

I am watching.

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Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 11:12 am

Duveneck Dad - can you please explain the whole story? What happened at Duveneck to set this off? What is the context or rational for these new rules? Has there been an outbreak of some contact disease? Have there been harrassements happening there?

I'm not willing to call these people nutso until we hear the whole story. Is there anyone out there besides DD that would care to give a more balanced reporting of this?

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Posted by Duv Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 1:29 pm

I was shocked when I heard from my children about the assembly. Being that no explanation or preparation was given to the parents, I told my kids they simply misunderstood what the Principle was saying.
Now it is all the school community is discussing. I agree with the previous posting. I have to believe that something 'horrible' was going on that prompted the rule change. Not simply boys and girls playing like healthy boys and girls. I hope so. I want to have my children learning in a happy, healthy, and natural environment.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 1:35 pm

I, too, can't believe this is all the story. There must be more, because otherwise it is completely absurd.

Please keep us posted.

Even if "something horrible" was happening ( a horrible "infection" of bullying??? This is the one of the things I can think of..)I hope this is simply a way of giving time to fix whatever the problem was so that everyone can go back and be kids again.

And not a permanent overreaction.

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Posted by Grandmother
a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2007 at 2:03 pm

This is bewildering. When I read this I thought immediately of my 7 1/2 year old teddy bear of a grandson, who is sweet, kind and empathethic. He's still innocent enough that he often will put his arm around a pal's shoulder, accept a hug from another girl or boy, give a hug when needed, play soccer or tag on the sports field with his friends only to end up in a big jumble of kids on the grass.
How would I tell this sweet kid that there seems to be something wrong with playing tag, high-fiving, offering a sympathetic hug? It makes a lump in my throat even as I write this.
Hopefully there's more to the story that will make sense.

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Posted by duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Actually, I had noticed (and heard about) an excessive amount of roughhousing at recess and lunch. My daughter told me about kids starting out hugging and then wrestling until one of them got hurt, throwing balls at kids who were trying to hide, and so many instances of one kid tackling and hitting another who disagreed with her that it seemed wildly out of hand. I didn't know anything about the no-touch rule until it happened, but I can't say I'm surprised. And yes, I'd like my daughter to learn that people's bodies belong to them, and she needs to keep her hands off other people unless they give explicit permission. I think a break from all the roughhousing won't hurt her grade much, at the very least....

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Posted by Duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 2:57 pm

There is a far cry between wrestling and not being allowed to hold hands, touch another child when he or she is hurt, high five at a happy moment.....what are we turning into? Makes me want to leave the area....after all our schools are what brought us here in the first place...Not the leadership I'd like to see.

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Posted by A former Duveneck parent
a resident of Community Center
on May 3, 2007 at 3:49 pm

As a parent of a former Duveneck student, I am shocked to hear about a new policy banning any touching or contact. I don't believe that it can be healthy for elementary-aged kids to have to actively monitor their normal physical contact during the day.

I assume this new policy has been sanctioned by the PAUSD. Does a public school district actually have the legal right to keep children from holding hands with their friends, or coming in contact with their friends during play... can it ban contact that has no bearing on school performance or safety?

When my child attended Duveneck I was always impressed with the positive and accepting environment the school fostered. In fact, the school used to hold a group hug once a year. Is that now banned?

If, as a previous comment suggests, this policy arose because of some instances of "excessive roughhousing" (I don't know if that is true) the school should simply manage the individual kids involved and talk to their parents. In past years when there was a rough play issue at the school the issue seemed to get handled. This isn't an inner city high school. These are 6-11 year olds.

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Posted by Duveneck Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Below my comment, I have copied the note written from the principal.

Frankly I don't think most of Duveneck Community is supportive of this new policy. [Portion deleted by Palo Alto Online staff.] Duveneck has to understand that in a few short years these children will be thrown into a whole new environment,(jr. high) and without the proper coping skills, they will find it very difficult to function. The kids can't play "knock out" dodge ball, and flag football among other childrens games, as these are all competitive and heaven forbid someone has to lose! (and we don't want hurt feelings!) What are we preparing our children for? The real world out there is rough, and we are so protective, we don't want anyone to feel bad or lose at a game. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The parent who commented above about her daughter experiencing rough play needs to teach her daughter a little more self confidence and understand that the majority of these behaviors are typical child play. Of course we need to teach our children our bodies belong to us and we need to respect that, but were talking kids being kids and nothing more!

A note from the principal....

Yesterday at our staff meeting, the staff discussed
the feeling of an increase of "pushing the limit"
behavior during non-class times (recess, lunch, before
and after school).

This is not uncommon at any school during the last few
weeks of a school year.

The staff brainstormed a list of those behaviors, and
we put them into general categories of "Respect" and
"Safety". We also decided, as a staff, to do our best
to help remind the students when we observe things
that are not appropriate.

Today at our assembly, I went through the list with
the students. Below is a copy of that list.

Only walk on the red top No tag on the play structures
No riding wheels on campus until after 3:00pm (or
1:15pm on Wednesdays)

Follow instructions of all staff members without
Use appropriate language
Treat each other well - no teasing or put downs
We are a "hands off" school for the rest of the year.
Clean up your lunch table

All of these are standard school rules with the
exception of the "hands off" one. As a staff, what we
are observing at this time of year is that even the
friendly kind of touching (hugs, arms around each
other, holding hands, etc) is leading to rough play
and hurt feelings. (Those of us who are parents of
multiple children have probably experienced this at
home.) We therefore are asking the kids to keep their
hands to themselves during non-class times over these
next few weeks. This is not a change in philosophy or
in general school rules, it is simply an attempt to
keep everybody safe during a time period that gets
increasingly hectic.

We hope that as a community you will understand where
we are coming from, and that you will be supportive at
home by reminding students about appropriate behavior.

Thank you,
Larry Thomas

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Gosh, talking to each other can lead to arguments, which can lead to roughness, so we should ban talking to each other at school also.

Too far. Better to remind kids what is appropriate play behavior. Anybody who as raised boys knows they just have to learn where to draw the line in their own behavior, and to respect anyone who says "stop".

Taking away all touch is absurd, and completely developmentally inappropriate.

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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on May 4, 2007 at 12:10 am

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yes, this looks like an item worthy of discussion and concern. But, please, can we respectfully disagree with the learned and experienced professionals in our schools without resorting to "shocked," "absurd," and "utterly idiotic"? When I see language like that, I'm just severely dumbfounded, wholly flabbergasted... oops! Save up some of your adjectives and adverbs for better purposes! And if this makes you want to move out of PA, well... hmmm...

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 10:08 am

Thank you for giving us the full content of the email/letter that was sent home to parents. I am a little confused though. It does not say that games like Duck Duck Goose, Ring a Roses, Tag (although it does say in a certain area), Football, or hand shakes, or high fives, should not be carried out. What it says is not as bad as what we had understood from the original poster. Is there more to this than just the email/letter? Was the rest mentioned at the school assembly and not sent home to parents?

I think before we all get carried away with what this means, we should get the facts straight. It is obviously very difficult to carry out a full "no contact" policy when obviously in sport and other outside activities it is encouraged to be good sports and always congratulate the other team with a handshake, or whatever. In the classroom as children work on group projects and help each other it is impossible to keep them from touching.

In my experience as a parent of boys, it is not touching that causes the problems, it is arguing that causes the problems. Touching with a thump on the back or a high five is a common way for boys to greet each other and is found in adult behavior also. Girls like to whisper secrets, put their arms round each other and do similar actions just because they are young girls. Telling young children not to behave like this at school just puts a stigma on this behavior which would not normally be there.

It would be much better to address issues of tolerance, exclusion, rough housing, or whatever the problem is, in a head on manner. Arguing about who did what better, or whether a ball was "in" or "out" will still happen even if the kids don't touch. Get the arguments stopped will do a much better job and give the kids a better life lesson.

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Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 10:46 am

After reading the letter, I have no issue whatsover with the very reasonable statements made by the principal.

He also said 'for the rest of the school year' so he's obviously instituting a 'cooling off' period to get the kids to settle back down, out of some excessive roughhousing energy. I doubt very much they're going to be blowing whistles on kids who are kindly holding hands at some random point here and there.

Its a time out.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Parent from another school
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on May 4, 2007 at 1:42 pm

I just recently read an article in RD titled "We are treating our kids as criminals". People are losing common sense. We need to have a "normal envirornment for our kids to enjoy their childhood, friendship (even friendship involves up and downs, happy and unhappy moments). We should also teach our kids to express their feelings and show loves to others, and that including both verbal and physicial expressions.

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Posted by Duveneck Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Understand that in the text of the letter, this new policy was "snuck" in and appears benign. In the assembly to the kids the very severe and confusing rules were laid out. My daughter was told if someone was hurt, that she must use her words to make her friend feel better, not the consoling feeling of an arm around the shoulders......

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Posted by Duveneck Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 3:42 pm

I believe that some of the recess issues are arising because there are too many kids in too small of space. Whenever I see the kids out at recess, I wonder how the kids call deal with such a mad house. There is no room to play games, people are running into each other by accident all the time.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 4:06 pm

"This is not a change in philosophy or in general school rules, it is simply an attempt to keep everybody safe during a time period that gets increasingly hectic."
...That says it all right there, doesn't it? If your child was pushed to the ground and hurt (even by accident) or if their feelings were hurt when another child gave everyone a hug except for them, or hugged them just a little too tight and hurt them, would you be more supportive of this? This sounds more like a positive way to protect our kids- and the community, than anything else.

We all want the best for our kids, and that's what the letter seems to agree with. What they appear to be doing here is trying to keep everyone safe as the school year winds down and emotions heat up. That's it.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Where then does Duck Duck Goose or Ring a Roses fit into this?

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Posted by Posey
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Wear gloves.

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Posted by Two Cents
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Sounds a little bit like an across the board, classic example, guessed it! An OVER REACTION

Adults do it all the time

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Posted by Dragon
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 8:07 pm

This is truly ridiculous to the point of it being funny as a former Duveneck student in the early to mid 90's. I remember when I first moved to California, my elementary school in Sunnyvale banned throwing anything. I kid you not, I could not throw something the garbage can!! I got in trouble my first day of school being naive of the "rules."

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Posted by Dr. Strangelove
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Don't worry folks,
hands off means hands off.
We are simply getting the kids
ready for robotics. That is the
latest craze in high schools, in
case you failed to notice. Our
students are really great at
making robots- up and down the
peninsula, and, well, let's just
say that it takes one to know one.

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Posted by GSB
a resident of Mountain View
on May 4, 2007 at 9:44 pm

I wonder how long this will take to appear on

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Posted by Kinder Mom
a resident of Downtown North
on May 5, 2007 at 11:39 pm

One parent already honed in on the real problem--overcrowding. The kids are not allowed to play running games, except on the grass and "chase games" are outlawed altogether. Much of what used to be grass covered play space at our schools now is filled by portables. And yet, more and more kids are crammed into the shrinking space. There is not enough room for normal kid behavior at recess and lunch--they run into each other, fights erupt etc. It's very sad that the Duveneck community felt it necessary to make the no touching rule for the rest of the year. It sounds silly, and the real problems are probably caused by a few kids who should be dealt with individually.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 8:34 am

Yeah, the motivation for this rule is trying to keep everyone safe, but why is it necessary to have such an extreme rule? Why don't these kids know where to draw the line? Why isn't the school helping them with that? A rule like this doesn't teach them anything.

The behavior at recess doesn't come from nowhere. Schools have a culture, and so do classrooms, and the way kids behave on the playground reflects how they've been taught to behave in the classroom.

The principal should take a hard look at what he asks of teachers, and teachers should examine the way they are teaching in the classroom.

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Posted by Heliparent
a resident of Escondido School
on May 6, 2007 at 9:46 am

In litigious Palo Alto, with its well-intentioned parents, who unfortunately are always just a skinned knee away from calling a lawyer, what else would you expect?

Palo Alto schools have plenty of space for kids to play. Out of 500 kids playing, a few will get hurt, but when they do, it's people like YOU (and ME!) who will march on down to the office expecting an inordinate amount of time and (re)action.

Let your kids navigate their school day. If you have taught them well, they will be fine.

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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2007 at 10:02 am

Note that the portables, which shrunk the play areas, were put there because of the uproar by parents who refused to accept the fact that the school was overcrowded and newly enrolled students needed to be sent to schools with more room. Aside from that, the "hands off" policy seems unwarranted. No indication that the students who crossed some line of safety couldn't have been dealt with under existing rules, without an assembly to waste time with this new set of absurd rules. We all talk about how great Palo Alto is for kids, and mostly that is true. I just wish these parents and teachers who obsess over protecting their kids from experiencing any upset or failure could spend some time in some other towns. I have teacher friends who have zero aide time, no parent volunteers because all the parents work full-time, kids with drug-addict parents, etc. They aren't talking about what healthy snacks to bring for Star Testing and turning recess into a no-play zone.

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2007 at 1:59 pm

When my children were at Duveneck, there was VERY little adult supervision at recess and lunch - 2 adults. I wonder if other PA schools with additional adults on the yard have fared.

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Posted by JT
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm

WTF. Wow. If they did this 7 years ago when I was there, I would have gone crazy.

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Posted by :)
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2007 at 5:03 pm


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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