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Staff writer

St. Mary’s public schools are backing off immediately implementing rules for visitors that initially limited homemade food and hugs for students from anyone other than their own parents, Superintendent Michael Martirano said this week.

What were called “best practices” for school visitors outlined at a school board meeting last week should have only been recommendations, he said, and they were incorrectly announced as new rules that would go into effect immediately.

The rules drew national media attention and spurred hundreds of comments about the school system, some of which were nasty, he said.

Schools began emailing the revised recommendations home to parents this week and posted them on school websites.

The new recommendations, dated March 20, do not mention hugs. They do refer to adhering to a volunteer training manual, which will be developed in the coming months, Martirano said.

Martirano emphasized that appropriate hugs are allowed in schools.

“If a student wants to hug me, I’m going to hug him back,” Cathy Allen, school board member, said this Wednesday.

“I think the prescriptive nature of the rules [before they were revised Wednesday] are of a concern, overall,” she said. Allen said she thinks the best practices should be phrased more as “expectations,” and that would allow schools more leeway in the interpretations.