Georgia high school student suspended over hug

CREATED Dec. 16, 2013

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A high school senior in Duluth, Georgia has been suspended for a year - and won't graduate on time - because he hugged a teacher.

The student says what was meant to brighten a teacher's day is now putting his college plans in jeopardy.

"Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite."

Sam McNair and his mom April call themselves huggers.

But when Sam hugged a teacher at Duluth High School last month he could never have imagined it'd result in year-long suspension for sexual harassment.

"I have five months left in my senior year. I don't see why they'd take that away from me."

Surveillance video shows Sam placing his arms around the teacher. He hugs her-- then turns as she pushes him away. According to the discipline report, the teacher claimed Sam's lips and cheeks touched her neck.

"Did you kiss your teacher?"

"I did not."

Sam says he has hugged teachers many times before, including this teacher...and has never been warned.

"I was dumbfounded."

His mom says the school should have notified her if there was an issue with his hugging before suspending him and derailing his college plans.

"He's a senior. He plays football, he's getting ready for lacrosse season. And you stripping him of the opportunity of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college."

An education attorney not associated with the case says schools must take sexual harassment allegations seriously, but must also educate students to prevent it from happening.

"The school system should do a very good job in communicating to both parents and students what the parameters are for appropriate contact is between students and teachers. And to the extent that they have not done that, it certainly was an extreme punishment for the student."

Gwinnett County Schools spokesperson says a student's past discipline record impacts the punishment.

Sam does have a discipline record and previous suspensions...but not for sexual harassment.

And he has a hard time believing he should be punished for showing affection.

"You never know what someone's going through, you know? A hug might help.

"But in this case it hurt?"