DULUTH, Ga. (CNN) – A high school senior in Georgia has been suspended for a year and won’t graduate on time because he hugged a teacher.
Sam McNair says what was meant to brighten a teacher’s day is now putting his college plans in jeopardy.
He said, “Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite.”
McNair and his mother, April, call themselves huggers.
When Sam hugged a teacher at Duluth High School last month, he could never have imagined it would result in a year-long suspension for sexual harassment.
McNair said, “I have five months left in my senior year. I don’t see why they’d take that away from me.”
Surveillance video obtained by WGCL shows Sam placing his arms around the teacher.
He hugs her and then lets go as she pushes him away.
According to the discipline report, the teacher claimed Sam’s cheek and lips touched her neck.
However, Sam denies kissing her.
He says he has hugged teachers many times before, including this teacher, and has never been warned.
April McNair said, “I was dumbfounded.”
His mother says the school should have notified her if there was an issue before suspending him and derailing his college plans.
She said, “He’s a senior. He plays football, he’s getting ready for lacrosse season. And you’re stripping him of the opportunity of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college.”
An education attorney, who is not associated with the case, says schools must take sexual harassment allegations seriously.
She also says it must educate students to prevent it from happening.
Sharese Shields Ages said, “The school system should do a very good job in communicating to both parents and students what the parameters are for appropriate contact between students and teachers. And to the extent that they have not done that, it certainly was an extreme punishment for the student.”
A Gwinnett County Schools spokesperson says a student’s past discipline record impacts the punishment.
Sam has been suspended in the past but not for sexual harassment.
He has a hard time believing he should be punished for showing affection.
McNair said, “You never know what someone’s going through, you know? A hug might help.”