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Peace and Conflict News
Last Updated: 12/04/2007
Hugging dispute resolved
Associated Press

MASCOUTAH, Ill. — Maybe they hugged it out — school officials resolved their dispute with the parents of a 13-year-old girl given detention for hugging her friends.

Melissa and Dean Coulter met with officials of the Mascoutah, Illinois School District 19 to discuss the two detentions given their daughter, Megan, for hugging friends goodbye for the weekend. School officials said the eighth grader violated a policy banning public displays of affection.

“Our whole purpose of the meeting was to get them to talk to us and discuss what changes needed to be made and if (the policy) could be improved,” Dean Coulter said. “We scheduled it because we figured it was the right thing to do.”

Her parents told her to serve the detentions to avoid getting into more trouble, and had planned to take the issue before the Board of Education at its meeting Thursday.

Superintendent Sam McGowen said in a statement Monday that the Coulters had withdrawn their request to speak at the meeting, and decided instead to meet with administrators.

“I'm grateful they sought this meeting and we could have a level of discussion that helps us both understand each other's concerns more clearly,” Mr. McGowen stated.

He said he and Assistant Superintendent Terry Gibbons met with the Coulters on Friday and discussed the policy that led to the detentions.

“We told them that we reviewed it on an annual basis and that's where we left it,” he said.

Mr. Coulter said Mr. McGowen was very receptive during the meeting, and that the family is satisfied with the district's promise to at least look into revising the policy.

“I just feel like we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, and that was for them to talk to us,” he said.