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Public school bans applause because it might startle 'sensitive' students ... but 'silent cheering' approved as ok (for now)

Silent cheering

(NaturalNews) A public elementary school in Sydney, Australia, has banned applause from its school assemblies, "to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise."

The Elanora Heights Public School policy was announced in a newsletter sent home to parents.

"If you've been to a school assembly recently, you may have noticed our students doing silent cheers," the article reads. "Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot."

The article goes on to explain that "silent cheers" are not spontaneous outpourings of enthusiasm, but are choreographed displays directed by teachers.

"When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed. Teachers have also found the silent cheers to be a great way to expend children's energy and reduce fidgeting."

No hugging allowed

The school has not responded to media questions about the policy, so it remains unclear who the noise-sensitive community members might be, or if they are only hypothetical. But an article from News.com.au painted the ruling as part of a larger trend in Australian schools toward over-coddling of children and excessive involvement in their activities and behaviors.

The article notes that several Australian schools have also recently banned hugging.

For example, St. Patricks Primary School has implemented a policy that children are not allowed to hug anyone, child or adult, with or without consent. Asked if there was some incident or problem that led to the new policy, principal John Grant said, "Nothing in particular."

"But in this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious," Grant said.

Administrators decided to ban hugging and explained the policy to teachers. Teachers then explained it to students, and instructed them about other ways of showing affection.

"There's a range of methods including a high five or a particular knuckle handshake where they clunk knuckles as a simple way of saying 'well done'," Grant said. "There are also verbal affirmations and acknowledgments."

Once again, a letter will be sent home to parents informing them of the policy.

Grant said that prior to the implementation of the policy children at the school would regularly and enthusiastically hug teachers and each other.

"We have a lot of kids who walk up and hug each other and we're trying to encourage all of us to respect personal space," Grant said. "It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged."

Hypersensitivity culture?

In recent years, commentators have focused increasingly on the possibility that children and adolescents are now having their lives excessively managed – and harmed – by well-meaning adults who believe they are protecting them.

In an article last year in The Atlantic, psychotherapists Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explored the idea that "trigger warning" culture – in which college students expect to be warned before being exposed to any ideas they might find upsetting – is one factor contributing to hypersensitivity and lack of emotional resilience in the younger generation.

But they note that the rise of trigger culture is part of a larger cultural shift. In the United States in particular, they note that Baby Boomer parents were regularly subjected to stories of child abductions and other (actually rare) dangers, which led them to deny their children many of the freedoms they enjoyed when they were young. This marched along with institutional trends to remove "dangerous" play structures, ban peanut butter from schools and – after the 1999 Columbine shootings – invite police into schools, enforcing harsh rules against students for joking or carrying even the most innocuous "potential weapons."

"In a variety of ways, children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well," Lukianoff and Haidt wrote.

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