"It was literally like a second." That's how long 14-year-old Ella Fishbough tells WKMG a supposedly "inappropriate" behavior lasted, one that has landed her in detention at Jackson Heights Middle School in Oviedo, Fla. Her offense? A quick hug she gave a classmate before the first bell rang Monday morning, WOFL reports. The eighth-grader tells the Washington Post she had heard a male friend's day was off to a bad start, so she tried to cheer him up with a friendly show of affection—an apparent violation of the Seminole County school district's code of conduct. It bans "inappropriate or obscene acts," including "unwelcome or inappropriate touching, or any other physical act that is considered to be offensive, socially unacceptable, or not suitable for an educational setting." Anything from holding hands to linking arms can be considered non-allowable PDAs, at the discretion of each principal, the Post notes.
This was Ella's second offense with the same boy—he had placed his hand on her head last month—warranting detention per the rules, WKMG notes. "I do think about inappropriate touching and boys and girls of this age … but that's not what we're dealing with here," Ella's mom, Kathy, tells the station. "If administration can't tell the difference between a friendly, 'How are you doing' hug and an inappropriate hug, then I think we have another big problem." The Fishboughs have hired an attorney to "help raise awareness," per WKMG. "A simple hug given to a friend in their time of need is apparently worthy of reprimand," says a statement from the law firm representing the family. "We believe this conduct sends the wrong message to our children." Ella will serve her detention Friday, WKMG notes. (Read more Florida stories.)