High-fives banned: Is stranger danger to blame?

A crossing guard in Peterborough, Ont., has been banned from giving students high-fives. Is stranger danger to blame?

Photo: istpck

Photo: iStockphoto

One of the things I loved most about the community I just moved away from is how friendly people are with one another. In fact, if you asked someone what their favourite thing about Peterborough, Ont., is, it’s probably about its helpful and kind residents. Crossing guards who help students at Peterborough’s Prince of Wales school, are just a few of those people. On my bi-weekly commute to my part-time job, I would see the guards helping students across the busy intersection where the school is located. Two things that always struck me about the guards are that they always had smiles on their faces would always high-five the students as they crossed. It was the highlight of my commute.

But, at a crossing guard training seminar on November 21, city crossing guards were informed by the lead guard and a supervisor from the City of Peterborough that high-fives were no longer allowed to be given by any crossing guards.

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“I objected to this rule,” one guard told ptbocanada.com, “but the reason stated was that we are not to have any physical contact with the children.”

“Both of the guards near our school (Prince of Wales) have been giving high-fives for at least seven years,” Peterborough parent Jason Hartwick says. “I know this because I’ve had kids there that long. It has never been an issue, nobody has ever said a word about them doing it, and the kids love it.”

When asked about the policy, Kevin Jones, manager of transportation for the City of Peterborough, said that the duties of an adult crossing guard are governed by the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario and the no high-five rule has been in place for a long time. The rule applies to all guards.

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“Any distractions can reduce focus and attention of the crossing guard while they are working,” Jones wrote. “In order to perform the duties of a crossing guard, they need to be 100-percent focused on their job. Physical contact between the crossing guard and the children is not only a distraction to the guard, but may have other implications as well. It is for this reason our policy restricts all physical contact between guards and children to ensure that distractions, which could potentially affect safety, do not take place while on duty.”

When I talked to the publisher of ptbocanada, Neil Morton, he said he was just as surprised as everyone else. “I was shocked to hear crossing guards can’t high-five students. It’s an empowering experience for the kids, their parents and the crossing guards. Crossing guards are heroes, even superheroes at some level.”

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Despite Jones’s defense that giving students a high-five is distracting, to me the whole situation screams of fear mongering about stranger danger. What are the “other implications” of a high-five, especially from a trusted adult whose sole responsibility is the safety of their young charges?

Parents and students in Peterborough reacted appropriately—high-fiving strangers and politicians today at city hall. Hopefully, their friendliness wasn’t too distracting for the men and women who run the city.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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