updated 10/20/2009 3:21:49 AM ET 2009-10-20T07:21:49

An Australian elementary school has banned hugging and other displays of affection between preteen boys and girls to set a good example for younger students, the principal said Tuesday.

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Students at Largs Bay Primary School in the southern city of Adelaide were spoken to about "inappropriate behavior" between boyfriends and girlfriends when the new school term opened last week, said Principal Julie Gale.

"We set strong standards of behavior for our Year 6 and 7 students, who are seen as role models by our younger students," Gale said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, referring to the school's oldest students, ages 11 to 13.

She said hugging between friends was not banned "but we do discourage displays of affection in the school yard among students ... who have a boyfriend or girlfriend at the school."

The hugging ban mirrors restrictions by some U.S. schools that have also outlawed hugs, kisses and physical horseplay in an attempt to prevent groping or injury and maintain the seriousness of the environment.

The Largs Bay ban came to public attention after some parents contacted the local newspaper to complain that the policy was too strict. Gale said she had not been approached by any parents about the policy.

'Common sense'
The punishment for breaking the hug ban was not clear.

Gale did not return phone calls from the AP.

Steve Portlock of the South Australia Primary Principals Association said the policy was "common sense."

"One of the things that's important for schools to do is to talk to students about what's appropriate behavior and what's inappropriate, whether it be about language or the things they wear and certainly in this case about the way boys and girls interact, especially when it comes to the stage of being boyfriends and girlfriends," Portlock said.

More on: Australia

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