Contrary to popular belief, no new rule has been implemented at an elementary school in the Palmerton Area School District.
The matter came to light when resident Marissa Markley told the board of school directors at a workshop meeting on Tuesday that her daughter, a sixth-grader at S.S. Palmer Elementary, said there was a new school rule that students are not to touch each other.
Markley questioned whether such a rule was fair to the kids, and requested answers from the district as to how it came about.
Superintendent Carol Boyce told Markley there is a state mandate that says youngsters need to be taught appropriate behavior.
Mary Brumbach, principal of S.S. Palmer, attempted to clarify the situation.
"Most schools have a keep hands, feet, and elbows to yourself; sometimes, that gets translated to no touching," Brumbach said. "We had this rule in place when I came here."
Brumbach further added that the rule means no touching, which she said was a major concern.
"This is not a new rule; I suspect most school districts have something similar," she said. "It really, truly, is in the best interests of the students."
The subject of whether students are able to play tag was then broached.
Christine Steigerwalt, principal of Towamensing Elementary, said some students play tag at recess.
However, Brumbach noted that there is ample grass at the Towamensing facility, compared to the macadam where students have their recess.
Board President Barry Scherer attempted to clear up any misconceptions associated with the rule.
"We wouldn't be discussing this if the no touch rule would have never been mentioned, but we are because it's been called no touching," Scherer said. "The rule hasn't changed."
Brumbach said the rule has been enforced due to "many, many injuries at recess."
"We're not trying to penalize the students," Brumbach said. "But, we have a high number of injury instances."
Brumbach added that work to the Coal Bowl playground made playing games, such as kickball, even harder for students to play. In October of 2011, five new pieces of playground equipment were unveiled during a dedication ceremony there, through the volunteer efforts of the S.S. Palmer/Parkside PTO.
That prompted a response from director Josann Harry.
"I am in disagreement with the playground," Harry said. "The new playground doesn't have anything to do with kickball."
Director Charles Gildner agreed, and added "There's more room now than there ever was."
Brumbach remained staunch in her support of the rule.
"I'm not looking at it as punishment; it's being proactive, rather than reactive," Brumbach said. "They have played tag, but we have had issues."
As a result, Brumbach said they are "taking a wait-and-see" approach.
"We have the data; it's something that we've looked at the big picture," she said. "Keeping hands, feet and objects to themselves is about safety."
Boyce attempted to sum up the situation.
"This is yet another example of the kinds of data we're mandated to give to the state," Boyce said. "We have the statistical analysis in our Safe Schools Report."