Student suspended for sexual harassment after hugging teacher

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GEORGIA -- To Sam McNair, a 17-year-old high school senior in Duluth, Georgia, it was an innocent hug.

"You never know what someone's going through," McNair told CNN affiliate WGCL in Atlanta. "A hug might help."

It didn't in this case because after McNair hugged a teacher, he ended up with a year-long suspension from Duluth High School, putting his college plans in jeopardy.

"He's a senior; he plays football. He was getting ready for lacrosse season, and you are stripping him of the opportunity to even get a full scholarship for athletics for college," April McNair, Sam's mother, told WGCL.

The elder McNair, who says she and her son call themselves huggers, said she was dumbfounded to learn of her son's suspension after hugging a teacher. (We were not able to reach the McNairs for comment. We sent April McNair a message via Facebook but have not heard back.)

Surveillance video captures the hug in question, showing Sam placing his arms around the teacher and giving her a hug. The teacher then pushes him away.

According to a discipline report obtained by WGCL, the teacher said Sam's lips and cheeks touched her neck and that she had warned Sam about hugging in the past.

Asked if he kissed the teacher, Sam told the television reporter he did not. He said he has hugged teachers many times before, including this teacher, and has never been warned.

In a statement, Sloan Roach, a spokesperson for the Gwinnett County Public Schools, told CNN, "Hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student's past disciplinary history -- including long-term suspensions that result in alternative school placement -- when determining consequences."

"If a parent has concerns about the outcome of a panel, he or she is entitled to appeal the decision to the Gwinnett County Board of Education," Roach added.

Since this is a discipline issue, the law prohibits the district from sharing details about the student's situation or the student's past discipline history, said the spokesperson.

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

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

His mother plans to appeal the school board's decision and said the school should have notified her if there were any problems with his hugging before suspending him and threatening his college future.

On her Facebook page, she posted a Change.org petition, calling for the school district to "revisit a year-long suspension for hugging a teacher." The petition had more than 200 signatures as of Monday evening.

Reaction online has been mixed, with many believing the punishment might be severe but raising questions about Sam's prior history.

"Our zero tolerance is taken a bit too far, but I have to reserve my comments since I am curious what his 'previous records' of suspension were about, as well as his disciplinary record," said Sue Scheff, a parenting advocate.

"But I don't think hugging constitutes sexual harassment unless he has intent otherwise and it doesn't seem that way," said Scheff.

Some commenters said the allegation that the teacher raised the issue before with Sam was a key point.

"If she has warned him before and he did it again and his hand or face touches her where she believes it's inappropriate, like (the) neck or breast, it's textbook sexual harassment," said a viewer on WGCL's website.

But said another commenter, "This is crazy. Now we can't hug people anymore. What in the world?"

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

32 comments

  • Kim Bush

    This is totally asinine, it’s a hug, you can simply see that it’s just a simply hug. He didn’t grab her butt or boob. And I don’t see where his other background has anything to do with this if it has nothing to do with sexual harassment, Next time Sam Just do a one arm hug, just a simply squeeze of the shoulder. Gotta love how things that simple are blown out of proportion.

  • crystal

    i find this stupid hugging is not sexual harassment and at that it looks like the teacher didnt even push him away till after he was done with the hug and it look like a playful push not even a real push they need to left this suspension so dumb

  • Dee

    There are so many children that have wasted their lives by dropping out of school. This is one that wants to make s life for himself. Why would anyone deny him of his education?

  • l337g33k

    That’s a pretty overbearing hug. He just sneaks up to her and grapples her. I’d be upset too. Then he just turns away like nothing happened after he is pushed off; granted that’s all the video shows. A blanket expression. Personally, judging by the behavior in this video, I don’t think it’s as innocent as they try to make it out to be.

  • Wayne Lee Ray

    If a 17 yo comes up and grabs a women and places his lips on her neck after she has asked him not to touch her it is boarding on simple sexual assualt. See he does not get to touch whoever where ever he likes causes he’s feeling bad or wanting to cuddle. The teacher has rights, he crossed the line and that’s it. I’d charge him if I where her. Just a few weeks ago a 14 yo raped and killed his teacher in the north eastern US. Teachers are not in school to be objects of satisfaction for students. At 17 if he don’t know what no means, he’s on the road to bring a predator.

      • Chasity

        “According to a discipline report obtained by WGCL, the teacher said Sam’s lips and cheeks touched her neck and that she had warned Sam about hugging in the past.” This is where she said she warned him in the past.

    • Michelle

      Judging from the video that is certainly not the case. Had he actually touched or groped her in a deliberate way then I could definitely understand. But we cannot assume everyone is like that 14 year old bay. That would be ridiculous to put everyone into that category

  • Moses

    unloving liberal atheists run our schools; pure and simple; glad I home schooled; and to think that taxpayers are forced thru property taxes to fund this nonsense

  • Kaffie

    Give me a break!!! This kid has a chance at college and a future to better himself…don’t ruin his chances!!! This is all going too far in today’s world. So glad our child has graduated!

  • Chasity

    I am sorry but as a mother I have to agree. If the teacher warned him in the past as she stated in the article then if it was an issue why hadn’t the mother been contacted. I think if you feel you need to “discipline him” then it needs to be like any other kid either ISS (in school suspension) for one day and a conversation with his mother. You only take a year away if he has been in trouble for this same exact issue more than once in the past. This is way to far and insane. I am sorry but if I where his mother I would be in the principles office asap and demand answers. My dad had to do that once for my brother getting suspended when he didn’t do anything but defend him self in a fight once they got to the bottom of it his suspension was taken off otherwise it would have ruined his chances at getting a Running scholarship.

  • Rose

    I feel like it’s one of those he said, she said situations. In the video when he walked up and puts one arm around her, I see no harm in that. but when the other one goes around her and he sort of buries his face behind her, I can certainly believe maybe his lips touched the back of her neck. Whether it was on purpose or by accident, I’m not sure. They cannot release his past school record which may contain cases of him expressing too much PDA (Public Display of Affection). He may say he has never been warned of hugging but we don;t know if he is lying or if the teacher is lying. With all of the past cases of teachers and students having inappropriate sometimes sexual relationships I do not blame the teacher for taking extra precaution. If she has warned him many times before like she said she has then she has a right to go to the extreme. Her job and record could be at stake if even one person saw them hugging and reported it to authorities as inappropriate before she gets a chance to. I hate it for the young boy. Usually schools will not go to extremes like this unless there are underlying issues involved. I hope maybe they can sort this out to where the boy can still graduate.

  • FaithC

    Should he have hugged her without her permission; no.

    With that said…If he had done this before why did they not call his parent in? If there is any problem at all you would think that would be their first course of action.
    Why was he not disciplined for this before? If it is a problem now, it was a problem then. So why suspended him now, but not before?

    From the video when he put his one arm around her she did not pull away. So one arm is ok but two is not?

  • Lisa Adkins

    It looked innocent to me. She could have warned him and called his mother. I think the school officials over reacted. ISS or suspension for one or two days maybe, if they thought it was harassment. But in my opinion, it wasn’t. It seems to me that so many people today over react. For example: there have been small children that have been accused of sexual harassment. It’s just rediculous. In this case, the hug didn’t even last long enough to be anything other than a simple hug.

  • Terra

    When he puts his arm around her she lifts her left hand up and touches his before the hug !!! And I would not call that pushing his away I would call it a playful pat … The teacher took this way to far if I was his mother I would fight it!

  • Michelle

    Everyone, in addition to leaving comments here if you feel strongly on this issue to to change.org and sign the petition!! I just did. About 150 more signatures are needed! make a difference for this young man whose punishment certainly does not fit the crime!!!!

  • Marcus Powell

    So should this apply to teachers hugging students all the time?? When I was in school, teachers gave hugs all the time and I didn’t want to hug them most of the time. Was I entitled to get them fired for hugging me? If I was, I want to go back and get some teachers fired…. You see how ridiculous what I said sounded. This is how ridiculous this whole thing sounds.

  • Debbie

    ,His lips touched the teachers neck. She obviously felt uncomfortable. I think he desreves the punishment he got and nobody is ruinig his chances of going t college but his self. He’s old enouh to know better and he had been warned. He should of listened to het when she warned him in the past.

  • Deborah Markland

    Some people simply do not want to be touched by other people. You “huggers” out there need to respect that and not touch us. I’m a germ-a-fob so hugs and kisses are a huge, huge, no-no with me (unless you are family or a super close friend). Other people have trust issues, maybe there was unwanted touching in their past.
    It could be there was nothing sexual about the hug; maybe she just doesn’t want people touching her period. The fact that she did not want the hug should be enough to not get hugged. Whatever the reason PEOPLE STOP TOUCHING US PLEASE!!!!!

  • betty

    this is the most stupid thing i ever see we are a family who hug everyone i think next time i will be more careful , hope everything go well for you soon and GOD BLESS YOU .

  • jim

    Lets see a photo of teacher in question. Another example of liberalism running amuck. These left threaded quacks are not going to be satisfied until they have completely destroyed our society.

    • dewey

      Jim, it’s you conservative righties who are completely prudish….remember John Ashcroft paying $8,000 to cover the breasts of a statue cause they probably looked better than his wifes real rack

  • Brandi rowley

    Well ok. This is really stupid she takes a job where she is expected to be around children all day and the moment one hugs her. She claims sexual harassment. You can tell it was just a hug. And the punishment does most defiantly does not fit the crime. And yes, personal space is fine. But, have the office address that issue. Toooooo farrrrrrrr! This country is really taking our liberties to a extreme.. Asinine extreme..

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