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Atlanta high school student suspended a year for hugging his teacher

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A high school student from Atlanta has reportedly been suspended for one entire school year after a review board found he had violated the school’s sexual harassment policy – because he allegedly hugged his teacher.

MSN News on Wednesday shared the story of 17-year-old Sam McNair, who was suspended in early December after the Gwinnett County School District found facts to support violations had occurred of the district's policy on physical contact between students and teachers.

A spokeswoman for the school system, Sloan Roach, said McNair hugged and also kissed the unidentified female teacher on the cheek and neck. McNair denies the kiss, stating he only gave her a hug.

Sam’s mother, April McNair, feels the district’s decision is extremely harsh, and could have potential long term impact on her son’s ability to obtain a college athletic scholarship. She says her family are “huggers,” and is dumbfounded at the school’s decision.

“He's a senior. He plays football and was getting ready for lacrosse and [the school is] stripping him of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college,” April said.

Sam said he had never touched the teacher before, and that she did not reprimand him after he hugged her. He said the hug was simply a friendly gesture and that there was nothing sexual about it.

Surveillance video however would seem to speak differently. Footage captured the hug and showed the teacher pushing Sam away. According to the discipline report, the teacher said Sam did indeed kiss her and that she had warned Sam about his hugs before.

“Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite… You never know what someone's going through,” Sam told CNN affiliate WGCL in Atlanta. “A hug might help.”

According to Roach, more specific details cannot be shared, but said all facts were reviewed and that the student can appeal the decicion.

“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,” Roach said. “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.”

On April’s Facebook page, she has now posted a Change.org petition, calling for the school district to “revisit a year-long suspension for hugging a teacher.”

April and Sam plan to appeal the school board’s decision.

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