A Maryland county school district is banning cupcakes, hugs, birthday party invitations and siblings from elementary schools.
Parents and volunteers who visit one of the 17 elementary schools in St. Mary's County are not allowed to hug any child who isn't their own. Parents must be registered as volunteers to be admitted to the playground and can only push their own child on the swings.
Siblings are not allowed to visit children during school hours, even if they are with their parent.
These are part of the new "best practices" created by a committee of parents and school administrators who met last fall after the Newtown massacre in December.
“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. "We think it's the right balance between safety and parental involvement."
Citing allergy concerns, children can no longer bring homemade cupcakes for the whole class. While the rules state it is OK to send your own child with homemade treats, anything for the whole class must be store bought with the ingredients listed.
Birthday party invitations were also a point of contention. PTA groups have decided to provide email and telephone lists to 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.”
District officials say the rules are not permanent and that they are seeking feedback from parents.
Cathy Allen, a member of the school board, is unhappy with the new rules and thinks they will drive parents away from participating in schools. "I think this is horrible," she said. "Certainly, elements of this are going to decrease parent involvement. It's just the nature of the beast."
“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 told NBC.
Under the motto "Work Hard and Be Nice" the St. Mary's school district educates about 8,000 students.
“It is sad that this needs to be done for the safety of our children,” Hall said.