VIENNA, Va. (AP) _ A show of affection almost landed a teenage boy in detention.
Hugging was 13-year-old Hal Beaulieu's crime when he sat next to his girlfriend at lunch a few months ago and put his arm around her shoulder. He was let off with a warning, but the cost of a repeat offense could be detention.
A rule against physical contact at Kilmer Middle School, about 10 miles west of Washington, is so strict that students can be sent to the principal's office for hugging, holding hands or even high-fiving.
``I think hugging is a good thing,'' said Hal, a seventh-grader. ``I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't think it would be a big deal.''
Unlike some schools, which ban fighting or inappropriate touching, Kilmer Middle School bans all touching.
But that doesn't seem necessary to Hal and his parents. They've sent a letter asking the county school board to review the rule.
But at a school of 1,100 students that was meant to accommodate 850, school officials think touching can turn into a big deal. They've seen pokes lead to fights, gang signs in the form of handshakes and girls who are uncomfortable being hugged but embarrassed to say anything.
``You get into shades of gray,'' Kilmer Principal Deborah Hernandez said. ``The kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' ``
Hernandez said the no-touching rule is meant to ensure that students are comfortable and that crowded hallways and lunchrooms stay safe. She said school officials are allowed to use their judgment in enforcing the rule. Typically, only repeat offenders are reprimanded.