Schoolkids banned from close contact

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-23 07:33

It could have been a puritanical new regulation laid out by High Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge, one of the villains in the Harry Potter series:

"Any physical contact between boys and girls at school is forbidden, including hand-holding, handshakes, hugging, patting, carrying people on the back and kissing. Boys and girls should only talk together in well-lit places such as the classroom or hallway. Exclusive talk between one boy and one girl is prohibited. Any conversation between members of the opposite sex should be vocal, and any dialogue via letter, QQ messenger or mobile phone at school is against the rules..."

So read the new rules issued by the Yizhou No 1 High School in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"Offenders will receive a warning and a lecture from school administrators. The parents of serious offenders will be invited to the school for a meeting, and students will be sent home to meditate for three to seven days. Repeat offenders will be suspended from school," according to the rule.

School officials said the rule would help keep the crowded hallways and dining hall safe and orderly, avoid premature love affairs and ensure that all students are comfortable and concentrate on their studies, the Southland Morning Post reported.

"The rule will not affect normal communication, which is based on transparent, civilized and healthy principles, between boys and girls," said He Yanping, vice-principal of the school.

"The rule has not violated human rights as it only targets those boys and girls who cannot behave themselves properly at school," she said.

The school has more than 2,000 students aged from 14 to 18.

When the rule was announced at an assembly last month, the students raised an uproar.

"Electronic eyes can be seen everywhere in the dining hall, dormitory and teaching building foyer. We feel we are watched," an anonymous student at the school said.

However, many parents have applauded the rule, saying it would help regulate the behavior of the students, most of whom are only children and are often spoiled.

The parents' worries seem to have some basis in reality. There were reportedly three love affairs involving students last semester. School administrators said two of the couples' grades had suffered as a result, while the third couple reportedly snuck off campus for a whole night.

However, experts said it was a bad idea to deal with the possibility of attraction between students by avoiding it.

"Middle school students often fall in love. Providing constructive suggestions and guidance is better than banning all contact between boys and girls," said Sun Yunxiao, a sociologist with the Chinese Youth and Children Research Center.

"Schools should provide more opportunities to help teenagers understand contact with the opposite sex. They should address their curiosity about sex," Sun said.

For her part, Yan Hong, a Shanghai primary school teacher, has found a way to help teenage students understand love and sex.

"I try to make my students understand that love is a beautiful thing, but they need to understand that their actions have consequences," Yan said.

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