Atlanta high school senior faces a year-long suspension for hugging a teacher

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ATLANTA – An Atlanta teacher is upset about an allegedly inappropriate hug she received from a student, and is pursuing a sexual harassment complaint that may prevent the high school senior from graduating on time.

seniorSeventeen-year-old student Sam McNair allegedly violated school rules on sexual harassment last week when he hugged his teacher at Duluth High School in Gwinnett County. School officials reacted by suspending him for a full year, CBS reports.

In a surveillance video of the incident, McNair puts his arms around his teacher and tucks his head behind her neck. The teacher alleged McNair’s cheeks and lips brushed up and touched her neck and cheek, but the student denies the contact.

The teacher had allegedly told McNair his hugs were inappropriate in the past. McNair’s mother, April, told CBS they are a family of huggers, and were dumbfounded by the school’s response to the incident. She was never informed of any hugging problems with her son previously, and is upset because the year suspension will put his college plans in jeopardy.

“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 told CBS.

McNair told the television station he was only trying to cheer up his teacher, and was not making any sort of sexual advance.

“Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite,” he told CBS.

Even if McNair was getting a little fresh with his teacher – if there was any clear way to prove that – would it justify full year’s suspension from school? He wasn’t accused of doing anything lewd or violent that approached the definition of sexual assault.

Apparently there were similar hugs in the past. Was the boy made to understand the grave nature of his actions, and the possible repercussions if he persisted? Would a one-week suspension be enough to get the message across and eliminate the behavior? Shouldn’t school officials try something like that before tossing him aside for a year and taking the risk that he may never finish his high school education?

School officials didn’t have much to say to the media, only that hearing officers consider witness testimony, known facts and past disciplinary actions when determining punishment. McNair had been suspended in the past for unrelated offenses, CBS reports.

McNair and his mother told the media they plan to appeal the decision with the school board.

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