Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer’s principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100. She said that students should have their personal space protected and that many lack the maturity to understand what is acceptable or welcome. “You get into shades of gray,” Hernandez said. “The kids say, ‘If he can high-five, then I can do this.’ ” She has seen a poke escalate into a fight and a handshake that is a gang sign. Some students — and these are friends — play “bloody knuckles,” which involves slamming their knuckles together as hard as they can. Counselors have heard from girls who are uncomfortable hugging boys but embarrassed to tell anyone. And in a culturally diverse school, officials say, families might have different views of what is appropriate.
Middle schoolers know gang signs? In Virginia? There’s gangs in Virginia?