Upper Arlington High School students share opinions on PDA

by Hallie Underwood, ’20

Plastered on the walls of UAHS with Scotch Tape, there was a piece of lined notebook paper with a message written in red letters: “No smooch zone.” Below: “Please stop; you’re making everyone uncomfortable.” Students took pictures of the sign as they passed the wall near the staircase, opening a conversation on public displays of affection.

Senior Kate McLaughlin said she saw the sign between classes and posted a photo of it on her Instagram story. “Basically, I thought it was really funny,” McLaughlin said. “We all see it walking down the hallways and we all want it to stop. I’d say we all agree no one wants to see you grabbing each other while walking
to class.”

According to a voluntary Arlingtonian survey of 198 UAHS students, nearly 94 percent said they have seen public displays of affection, or PDA, in the hallway. But the percentage of students who said they had participated in PDA at school was a small minority at 9 percent.

While the majority of students said they have seen couples publicly displaying affection, the exact definition of PDA is unclear. Many students responded to the survey with questions about hugging and
platonic affection.

Senior Daria Williams said PDA is only bothersome when couples are kissing. “I think as long as it’s kept to holding hands and hugging, it’s completely fine,” Williams said.

The Student Rights and ResponsibilitiesHandbook says “Affection between students is personal and not meant for public display. This includes touching, petting, or any other contact that may be considered sexual in nature. Sexual activity of any nature is prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.”

Junior Molly Kershner often encounters couples displaying affection during class changes and she said it can be annoying.

“In my opinion, it seems like people think they need to prove to everyone that they are in a relationship,” Kershner said. “We all understand that there’s going to be people who date. The whole student body doesn’t necessarily need to see you making out while we’re just trying to change classes.”

When Williams sees students being intimate in the halls, she said it reminds her of her high school relationships.

“I honestly love high school relationships because everyone is still young and want someone who will love them for who they are,” Williams said. “I think they do PDA because they want to let others know who’s taken and want to show that they are fine with the idea of dating and expressing it.”

Senior Maddie McConnell admits that while she and her boyfriend engage in what some consider PDA, there are often misconceptions outside of the relationship.

“If I’m really real, I hate PDA. But I only hate it because of the public idea of it,” McConnell said. “It’s actually a really difficult topic for me. I can’t tell if I’m being bullied or I’m doing a punishable action. But how can something so pure and happy and good in my eyes be something the administration needs to crack down on? When I see other couples, I get it, but when I hold Chase’s hand, I can’t imagine stopping.”

McConnell said she and her boyfriend senior Chase Dyer met freshman year and began dating after attending winter formal.

“He has never lost his temper with me in the three years I’ve been dating him. The only thing he cares about is making me happy, and he’s the only reason I get to believe I deserve it. I’m in love because I found my best friend. We just happen to be dating,” McConnell said. McConnell said male students have groped her in the hallways and put food in her hair.

“Shaming PDA is about more than the kids doing it,” McConnell said. “I think any hateful reaction to love is more shameful than when he kisses my cheek. It says more about you than me.”