Please keep your hands off my child.
It’s the sentiment most parents expressed to me when I asked them this question.
“Are you comfortable with teachers touching your child?” Most said things like, “No way.” “Why would they?” “Not in this day and age.” “They’d better not.”
If you’d asked me this question just five weeks ago, I would have agreed. I would have firmly stated that teachers have no business touching my children, for any reason. They are teachers, not parents. Touching them and hugging them is my job.
Only under the most extreme circumstances – like when they fall over and scrape their knees – would I have been happy for them to touch the kids to, you know, put on a band aid.
Leo Bennett-Cauchon, a special needs teacher of 16 years in California in the US, is on paid leave pending an investigation after he hugged eight-year-old autistic student Giovanni Anaya and allowed the boy to sit on his lap. “He asked to sit on my lap,” Bennett-Cauchon told US Woman’s Day. He then goes on to explain that the boy asked for a kiss, so he gave him one on the cheek.
He told USA Today, “This is a child who needs physical contact.”
The boy's mother Sharon Anaya supports the teacher's actions, explaining that her son needs physical contact upon request or he shuts down. However despite her support, the investigation continues, with an official from the school district in question saying they are checking for a pattern of "repeated acts of inappropriate behaviour".
I asked a former special needs teacher for her opinion:
When I worked with children who were high on the autism spectrum, or children with down syndrome, they always wanted to hug you and hold your hand. I would explain to them that they needed to play with the other children, or sometimes I would hold their hand - in fact I would often hold their hand. I would never hug them but sometimes it was hard, they would hug my leg or they would grab on to me and I couldn't just push them off.
But special needs kids aren't the only children who sometimes crave physical affection from teachers at school. My daughter Caterina, just a few short weeks ago, started Kindergarten and physical contact was absolutely crucial for pulling her off me as she hysterically clung to my neck, crying and begging for me to stay. The hysteria lessened eventually however she still needed her teacher to take her hand to lead her away.