While there are many things banned in schools worldwide that should rightly be restricted, many feel that schools are taking regulations too far these days and banning things that can help kids build relationships, have fun, learn, and understand how to function in the real world. They may just have a point. As you read through this list, you’ll see more than a few knee-jerk reactions by schools to problems that could have been solved in much more logical and meaningful ways, as well as a few things most of us can’t imagine our school days without. More than being surprising, many of these bans are downright ridiculous and draw attention away from far more pressing educational issues.
It completely makes sense to ban all types of inappropriate touching at school, but many schools have gone far beyond that. They’ve not only banned sexual touching, horseplay, and fighting, but other, far more innocuous types of touching as well. One school in Fairfax, Virginia decided to ban all types of touching, including high fives. Another school in Fort Worth banned hugs and hand-holding. They’re not alone. Schools around the nation and the world are following suit. Schools defend their decisions by stating that the bans help ensure nothing inappropriate goes on (whether between students or between teachers and students) and reduces their chances of being caught up in a lawsuit. Kids and their parents aren’t entirely convinced, and many have circulated petitions, staged protests, and quite vocally made their opposition to the bans clear to school administrators.
Kids today may be getting the chance to live out real-life versions of the ’80s classic (and now remade)Footloose. We have no qualms with bans that don’t allow students to engage in sexually suggestive dancing, but schools aren’t just outlawing those kinds of moves. While silly, it actually isn’t that surprising. Ridiculous dance bans are nothing new, with “The Twist” being banned by Buffalo in 1962 and all fad dances being off-limits at BYU around the same time. It seems not much has changed. In 1996,many schools banned “the Macarena” for being “too provocative.” While the lyrics do reference sex, it’s unlikely that many elementary school kids even noticed. Remember the Hokey Pokey? Kids may not be able to do this dance anymore either, as religious officials have said it promotes anti-Catholic feelings (again, unlikely that anyone, let alone kids, would relate the two). Dancing is apparently so objectionable that in New York, the word itself is banned from standardized tests.
Apparently, today’s kids can’t take criticism very well, even when merited. While our schools are already trying to keep up with others in the world, many schools have made that even harder by enacting ridiculous bans on things like red ink. Hundreds of schools in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia have outlawed the use of red ink when grading papers, stating that the color is too “confrontational” and “threatening.” School officials state that students feel demoralized when they see a sea of red on their papers (somehow other colors are less off-putting?). But many aren’t buying the reasoning, stating that children need to learn from their mistakes and be able to maintain self-esteem in the midst of criticism if they’re to make it in the real world.
It’s true that there is a serious obesity epidemic in America and that the food students eat at school needs to be markedly more healthy, but some schools have taken that issue a bit too far when making regulations. Many schools have banned junk food outright, both that being sold on campus and brought from home (spicy Cheetos have been targeted especially hard, even jokingly being called the “red menace”). While the bans may help some kids eat healthier, many feel it doesn’t actually help kids develop good food habits (some studies have found that junk food bans have little impact and may actually encourage kids to binge at home). Many are instead arguing for limitations on junk food, not outright bans, so that students can learn moderation, a skill that will help them navigate real-life food choices. Of course, in typical knee-jerk style, schools are taking bans far beyond the cafeteria and not allowing school groups to run bake sales, often where a majority of their funding comes from.
Remember how much fun you had as a kid celebrating Valentine’s Day and Halloween with parties? Those parties may be a thing of the past for many school kids today. The reason? Many believe they distract kids from learning and promote unhealthy eating habits. While parties might limit learning on a given day and offer kids more candy and salty snacks than they might normally consume, many opponents of bans say that the parties also help to reward kids for hard work and give them a chance to simply have fun and enjoy themselves with peers (important, given that many schools no longer have recess). The reality is that there are ways to make parties fun and educational and to limit the unhealthy treats that come with them, a more measured approach that some schools are embracing.
While generations of schoolchildren may have made it out of their K-12 educations with self-esteem intact after playing competitive games on the playground and in gym class, these days kids don’t get much of a choice in how they get their exercise. Elementary schools in Wyoming, California, Oregon, and Washington are part of the growing trend of schools who are putting the kibosh on traditional games at school because they say they’re too dangerous. On the chopping block are soccer, touch football, and tag. These games join dodgeball, which has been banned from many schools for years because it has been deemed unsafe. While dodgeball is an understandable activity to ban, tag and other team sports are far more questionable, and many critics believe that kids shouldn’t be discouraged from engaging in any physical activity. Schools point to injuries suffered by students as the reason for the ban, but few statistics exist that point to increased levels of accidents justifying these bans.
Based on the restrictions many schools have on social networks, you’d think they were virtual hotbeds of sin and misanthropy. While there are certainly good arguments to be made for preventing students from accessing these kinds of online sites while at school, there are also good reasons why they shouldn’t be, something many critics of the bans are quick to point out. School administrators often ban access to social networks because they believe they open kids up to cyber predators and bullying and because they believe students will use the networks inappropriately. Yet social networks have a lot to offer students and teachers, especially sites like YouTube that are loaded with educational content. Additionally, many educators believe that it’s critical to teach students how to use social networks responsibly, as misuse can have serious long-term effects when it comes time to apply for jobs or college.
Non-motorized forms of transportation
You’d think schools would be all for kids getting exercise by rollerblading, skateboarding, or biking to school, right? Well, not so much. Some schools have actually banned all forms of non-motorized transportation because they believe they are too dangerous for kids. While these forms of transportation can obviously result in injury if students aren’t careful, many believe that schools shouldn’t have the right to dictate what students do off campus and that bike safety programs are a much more effective way to reduce accidents than an outright ban. In some cases, even students who travel with parents to school on bikes have been told they can no longer do so, greatly angering parents and cycling groups.
Concerns about allergies and safety are solid reasons for limiting what foods can be brought into schools, but like many other things on this list, schools have taken things far beyond what many parents and students consider reasonable. One Chicago-area school has gone so far as to ban lunches brought from home altogether, forcing students to eat cafeteria food, a policy which has forced many kids to go hungry as they do not wish to eat what the cafeteria is serving or don’t have the money to pay for school-bought lunches every day. And kids can forget about treats for birthdays brought from home, as nearly all schools now ban home-cooked goods due to worries about allergies. (It’s worth noting that food allergy groups don’t support allergy-based bans, as they believe kids need to learn to manage their allergies in the real world.)
At some U.S. schools, students have to limit what they bring to class, as they aren’t allowed bookbags during the school day. School officials who enacted the bans say that not allowing bookbags inside of the school helps to reduce congestion, improve safety, and make it easier to stem thefts. While there are undoubtedly some good reasons for not lugging a backpack from class to class, students aren’t happy about the ban, saying they still have to carry the same stuff to class, but now have no way to easily do so. Additionally, the students say it is almost impossible to make it to class on time when they have to stop at their lockers, which are often not close to their classes, between each hour.