The simple act of hugging a teacher got one high school student in Duluth, Ga., suspended last month,WECT reports.
A school hearing officer found Sam McNair (pictured) to be in violation of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ sexual harassment policy. As a result, he received a one-year suspension last week.
Surveillance video shows McNair entering the a classroom at Duluth High School and embracing his teacher from behind, while tucking his neck behind her head. Per a discipline report, the teacher alleges the teen’s cheeks and lips made contact with the back of her neck and cheek. She also said she’d warned McNair that hugs were not appropriate.
McNair denied the report and that the teacher told him hugs were inappropriate, saying he never kissed her. “Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite,” he said.
McNair’s mother was shocked by the news, saying the district should’ve notified her son if the hugs were banned prior to suspending him. The suspension will also disrupt his college plans.
“He’s a senior. He plays football and was getting ready for lacrosse and you’re stripping him of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college,” April McNair said.
Sharese Shields Ages, an education lawyer commenting on the case, agreed. “The school district should do a very good job communicating to both parents and students what appropriate contact is between students and teachers and to the extent that they have not done that it was an extreme punishment for the student,” she said.
A spokesperson for Gwinnett County Public Schools said that “hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student’s past disciplinary history…when determining consequences.”
While McNair does have previous suspensions and a discipline record, none of them have involved sexual harassment. He says he was only trying to help the teacher’s day.
“You know what someone’s going through. A hug might help,” he said.
Watch video of McNair’s hug here.