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Appropriate Physical Touch

It is very important that we are aware of what is considered appropriate physical touch. According to the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) 65% of girls and 42% of boys reported that they had been touched, grabbed, or pinched in a sexual way. 3.5% of these children claimed that their abuser was a school professional (Stein, 2000, para. 10). Most educators are responsible but on the school and district level there are reports of innocent school personnel being accused of physical or sexual abuse. Later they were found, not guilty.

There are policies put in by administrators to prevent problems of inappropriate physical touch. Policies may differ from school to school because the term “appropriate physical touch” is very vague and subjective. Often times the school district may not have defined “what is appropriate.” As a paraeducator or TA it is most important that you identify school policies. Leave no room for misinterpretations. Preventative measures are the best. Use the common sense pointers provided by the National Educational Association:

  • never be alone with a student—if you are in an isolated room, keep the door open
  • maintain a professional demeanor and distance
  • avoid physical contact with students; a high five is a very acceptable acknowledgment of a job well done, whereas a slap on the bottom is not.


Stein, N. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research. Retrieved from Sexual Harassment in schools Online Web Site:

Stewart, Kristen. Sexual Misconduct Persistent in Utah Schools. Retrieved from the Salt Lake Tribune Online Web Site: