St. Mary's County Schools Restrict Hugging, Homemade Treats for Safety

By Chris Gordon
|  Thursday, Mar 21, 2013  |  Updated 10:34 AM EDT
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A committee of parents, principals and school staff members in St. Mary's County, Md, wrote new rules to enhance school security. News4's Chris Gordon reports.

Chris Gordon

A committee of parents, principals and school staff members in St. Mary's County, Md, wrote new rules to enhance school security. News4's Chris Gordon reports.

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New safety rules at St. Mary’s County Schools in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., restrict hugging and ban homemade cupcakes for students’ birthdays.

"Other parents coming in and hugging other children” was an example offered by Superintendent Michael Martirano of a practice that would be banned. “The fact is that we want to make certain our teachers and our staff are trained in what’s defined as the appropriate touching of a student versus inappropriate touch of a student."

School board member Cathy Allen called the restriction horrible.

"The idea that you can’t go into a school and be hugged by a child, or go in [to] have lunch or be out on the playground and that you can only push the swing for your child and for no one else” is unacceptable, she said.

Another new rule says parents can't bring cupcakes or other homemade treats to class because some students have food allergies.

Parents, principals and school staff sat on a committee that proposed the new rules. St. Mary’s County PTA President Trisha Post called the new rules a work in progress and suggested the hugging restrictions could be reworded.

Another feature of the school security system is building access monitoring, known as BAM. Visitors  must check in by computer and have their picture taken. They get a visitor's badge so the the school knows who is in the building and who has checked out.

"In looking at our procedures for visitors in our school, we really looked at tightening up security, and our parents agree that we really need to know who is in our school and who is interacting with our children," said Banneker Elementary School Principal Debra Bowling.

The changes are being tested in schools to see which ones get passing grades.

Follow Chris Gordon on Twitter at @chrisgordonnews.

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