A high school student in Georgia is paying the ultimate price for what he said was an innocent hug with a teacher. Sam McNair, 17, allegedly violated his school's sexual harassment policy and will be prevented from graduating with his classmates and has already lost his scholarship to college.
Last week, a Duluth High School hearing officer decided that McNair violated the Gwinnett County Public Schools' rules on sexual harassment. Surveillance footage showed McNair entering a classroom, placing his arms around the back and front of the teacher and tuck his head behind her neck. She allegedly wrote McNair up for inappropriate behavior because his cheeks and lips touched the back of her neck and cheek.
"Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite," McNair told CBS' WGCL. "You never know what someone's going through. A hug might help," he added.
McNair explained that he hugged quite a few of his teachers and they were okay with it. But this one particular teacher had reportedly warned him about giving teachers hugs, which she said was inappropriate. The case was then transferred to the officer, who made the decision to suspend McNair for the rest of the school year.
"Hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student's past disciplinary history… when determining consequences," the school said in a statement. There was no further comment made about McNair's case.
McNair's mother, April, was stunned by the school's decision and said that the school should have told her there was a problem with her son before taking such action. He has been suspended before, but not for sexual harassment. April said that her son comes from a family of huggers and was merely expressing himself but meant no harm.
"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," she told WGCL.
Some are standing by McNair and have filed a petition online to help get his suspension reversed.
Watch video of the controversial hug HERE: