A Duluth, Ga., high school senior was suspended an entire year for violating school sexual harassment rules. That means the teen won’t graduate on time and could likely lose out on an athletic college scholarship.
So what exactly did 17-year-old Sam McNair do to warrant such severe punishment? Did he cop a feel from a coed as she passed him in the hall? Was it something more sinister than that, such as entering into sexual congress by force?
A video of the hug, captured by a surveillance camera, shows McNair enter a room, place his arms around the back and front of the teacher and tuck his head behind her neck.
According to a discipline report, the teacher alleged McNair's cheeks and lips touched the back of her neck and cheek.
McNair denied he kissed his teacher or sexually harassed her.
McNair did say that he regularly hugs his teachers, which is admittedly a tad strange. But does it warrant turning his life upside down? His mother, April McNair, doesn’t think so. She says she was dumbfounded when she learned of the suspension and believes the district had a responsibility to notify her if her son's hugging had become problematic before it suspended him and derailed his college plans. Says the mom:
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.
According to the discipline report, the teacher alleged she warned McNair that hugs were inappropriate but he disputes that.
Sloan Roach, a spokesperson for the school district, would not comment on McNair's case but said in a statement that "hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student's past disciplinary history … when determining consequences."
Sharese Shields Ages, an education attorney not involved in the case, said that school districts have a responsibility not only to crack down on sexual harassment but to educate students about what constitutes sexual harassment:
The school district should do a very good job communicating to both parents and students what appropriate contact is between students and teachers and to the extent that they have not done that it was an extreme punishment for the student.
McNair’s suspension follows closely on the heels of another even more outrageous story in which a 6-year-old child was suspended from school for kissing a girl on the hand. He, too, was accused of sexual harassment, though the charge was later amended.
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