Looking back: Hand-holding brings administrative action

As we prepare to enter a new decade, WSS interns are pulling stories from the archives and reflecting on what has changed at West since the stories ran. In this installment, Caroline Mascardo ’22 examines hand-holding and student body-administration relations at West High.

 

 

 

 

Hand-holding brings administrative action

Published in the March 13, 1970 edition of West Side Story

 

Recently students have been “grounded”in the study hall for violating a rule which prohibits the showing of affection in the school.

Controversy was stirred because a typographical errors caused the rule to omitted from the Student Handbook.

In talking to Mr. Edwin K. Barker, West principal, about his views on physical contact in school, he said that this has been a rule in most of the schools in which he has been employed.

Mr. Barker said that the administration does not go out into the halls looking for violators. He feels that this isn’t a major problem at West.

This is a rule made by the administration and does not involve the Student Senate, he stated. Last year the senate passed a ruling that stated their disapproval of a rule against holding hands. Mr. Barker said that senate’s decision has no effect the physical contact rules; the rule has not been changed.

Mr. Barker has received several petitions from students requesting that the rule be abolished. He said that he will take these into consideration, but as of now he has no plans to change the rule. ”

Mr. Barker has received several petitions from students requesting that the rule be abolished. He said that he will take these into consideration, but as of now he has no plans to change the rule. 

“If a couple doesn’t refrain from physical contact they will be grounded in study hall,” explained Mr. James E. Ferguson, West assistant principal. He also commented that this only pertains to a few students.

Mr. Ferguson also stated that he feels these people have more problems than just holding hands. Right now there are students who are close to each other but who don’t display their affection in school. 

“They respect each,” he explained. He feels that a display of affection is not appropriate in school. “This is a place for learning,” he said.

A student who has been “grounded” in study hall expressed her opinion this way: “I was put into study hall for seven days. I don’t mind the study hall so much. It’s just that Mr. Ferguson tried to impose his sense of values on me. My sense of values aren’t going to change with seven days in study hall.”

 

 

Don’t hold hands!..

Published in the March 13, 1970 edition of West Side Story

 

Holding hands is a far cry from sexual conduct in school. So why not allow it?

If this action is outlawed, so should be square-dancing, social dancing, short skirts, tight slacks, long hair and make-up, for these stimulate attraction more than holding hands.

On Jan. 21, 1969, an editorial on Student Council appeared in West Side Story: “The Student Council, at its Jan. 7 meeting, passed a resolution ‘requesting that the administration cease taking disciplinary action against holding hands.’”

Holding hands is a far cry from sexual conduct in school. So why not allow it? If this action is outlawed, so should be square-dancing, social dancing, short skirts, tight slacks, long hair and make-up, for these stimulate attraction more than holding hands.”

Although there was a rule listed last year in the handbook that stated that students are not allowed to hold someone’s hand, there is none written in this year’s handbook. No formal announcement that this rule still pertained was made, but Mr. Ferguson assumed that we knew it still existed. Does he expect us to obey it without question or opposition?

Mr. Edwin K. Barker, West principal, states in the opening letter of the handbook: “It is the responsibility of West’s student body to participate in developing a total educational program which is relevant to the needs of our present student body. This responsibility carries with it a requirement for mature judgement, tolerance of the views of others, and working step by step towards predetermined goals. It is our belief that our student body can accept this responsibility.” 

You learn something from each person you come in contact with,  is this included in “a total educational program?” If Mr. Barker believes we can accept this responsibility, why doesn’t he give it to us?

Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence mean anything? “… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence mean anything?”

The proposed Bill of Rights for Students, which has already been adopted by National Student Education Association in June, 1969, states: 

“The right to freedom, persona, conduct and appearance: The student has the right to govern his own personal conduct and activities so long as this does not interfere with operation of the institution. Standards of dress and appearance should not determine whether a student is to be denied or granted an education.”

 

A student perspective on student body-administration relations at West

By Caroline Mascardo

When I first read these articles, I was astounded by how much drama hand-holding caused back in West High’s early years. In fact, this topic was covered in three different stories in the same issue. “Students become baffled by ‘unwritten’ contact policy” (not included in this story) interviewed students and teachers throughout the school, asking about administrative action in regards to the hand-holding policy. One student went so far as to say, “Any rule which would restrict signs of affection seems entirely ridiculous and I wish people would stop worrying about it… Whoever it is who is worried about it must be a deprived and jealous person, and I wish he would come forward and I would hold his hand so that he would no longer feel jealous and deprived. Then this silly issue would not be an issue.” 

Although this quote may be a tad melodramatic, I agree that the issue was blown out of proportion. After the rule against hand-holding was accidentally omitted from the student handbook, students started holding hands because technically they could. In response, administration began sending students to study hall for a week as punishment. Student Council then passed a resolution declaring their disapproval for the “unwritten rule,” and student body-administration tensions only grew from there.

In my opinion, the PDA climate at West High has changed mildly in the 50 years since this article was published. While hand-holding, kissing, and hugging is occasionally witnessed in the hallways, it isn’t viewed as punishable. Instead, onlookers might be unsettled by classmates engaging in such acts.

This issue might have gone over easier if more respectful, honest communication was established between the student body and administration. However, I also think these articles demonstrate the difficulties of enforcing rules upon students.”

— Caroline Mascardo '22

In regards to the WSS 1970 publication, I find the student commentary particularly humorous. The quoting of the Declaration of Independence in “Don’t hold hands!..” (above) was quite tasteful. In all seriousness though, I believe that the student reporters portrayed administrative efforts in a negative light. This issue might have gone over easier if more respectful, honest communication was established between the student body and administration. However, I also think these articles demonstrate the difficulties of enforcing rules upon students. Current attempts to standardize AFT attendance, for example, have not gone over well for administration, and many students are frustrated with the rules and restrictions imposed on them. 

Overall, this publication on hand-holding, administrative efforts to enforce rules, and student push-back demonstrate the complex relationship between the student body and administration. No matter the situation, conflict tends to arise between the two groups. The real question is, will a solution be found to satisfy both?