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Maryland school district restricts hugs, party invitations and cupcakes

A county in Maryland is putting limits on some of the trappings of elementary school: Hugs from grown-ups are restricted, birthday-party invitations are banned, and no more bringing cupcakes for the whole class.

Parents who visit the 17 elementary schools in St. Mary’s County are still allowed to hug their own children, just not other kids. Only parents registered as volunteers are allowed on the playground, and even then they can’t push other people’s kids on the swings.

“What’s OK with some families is not OK with others,” Kelly Hall, the district’s executive director of elementary schools, told NBC News on Tuesday.

The guidelines come from a committee of parents and school administrators that started meeting last fall. They were put in place after the massacre last December in Newtown, Conn. District officials stress that they are not final, and say they want feedback from parents.

Among the new rules: It’s fine to send a homemade cupcake to school for your own child, but not for the rest of the class. District officials are concerned about food allergies and want parents to send only store-bought treats that have the ingredients listed.

As for party invitations, the district suggests that PTA groups develop phone and email lists for parents.

“If there are 20 individuals in the class and someone brings in seven birthday invitations, it was creating an academic disruption,” Hall said. “People were getting their feelings hurt.”

Not everyone is happy with the restrictions. One member of the school board, Cathy Allen, told NBC Washington that they’re horrible.

“The idea that you can’t go into a school and be hugged by a child, or go in (to) have lunch or be out on the playground and that you can only push the swing for your child and no one else” is unacceptable, she said.

The school district, which has “Work Hard and Be Nice” as a motto, has about 8,000 elementary school students, Hall said. Sherry Whittles, the mother of one of them, told Southern Maryland Newspapers that the rules don’t go too far.

Enforcing the hugging restriction could be tough, she acknowledged, because the child often approaches the grown-up for a hug, not the other way around.

“It is sad that this needs to be done for the safety of our children,” she told the newspapers.

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