Suspended For Hugging: Justified Or Too Harsh?

Recently, a high school senior in Gwinnett County, Georgia was suspended for a year for sexual harassment. What did he do that was considered sexual harassment? He didn’t get caught groping another student. He wasn’t catcalling and delivering sexual jeers at his peers. According to the student, he was suspended for nothing more than an innocent hug.

Sam McNair, was suspended for a year from Duluth High School after the school’s hearing officer ruled that he violated his public school system’s rules on sexual harassment. McNair said that the hug was nothing more than a kind gesture to help her get through a rough day. However, his teacher not only felt that it was inappropriate, but that it was much more than a hug. Surveillance showed McNair grabbing the teacher from behind and wrapping his arms around her waist. The teacher, whose name has yet to be disclosed, said that McNair’s lips touched her neck and cheeks. McNair denied attempting to kiss the teacher saying “Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite.”

Many feel that McNair being suspended for so long is going too far, including his mother who said that the school should have notified her before taking action. “You’re stripping him of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college” said April McNair. Other people are saying that the senior’s actions did not justify him being suspended. There is also a petition to revoke the suspension, that has already gained hundreds of signatures.

Of course, many people will have different opinions about this situation, especially regarding gender, race and strict rules regarding public display of affection in public schools. However, only two things should be questioned in this situation: The way that the student touched his teacher and the degree of the punishment. Was the touch inappropriate? Of course it was. Whether it was an innocent touch like McNair said it was or not, touching someone with their permission is something that you should not do. McNair is old enough to know this. Plus, it is kind of hard to honestly defend the young man’s actions when you look at the particular way that he hugged his teacher. It was a hug from behind, with his arms around her waist and face behind her neck. Anyone can try to defend him by saying that he had innocent intentions, but there’s not denying that he hugged his teacher in a matter that looked intimate.

What about the punishment itself? Whether intentions were innocent or not, a whole year suspension does sound harsh. However, reports have said that he has received warnings in the past for this behavior, but the number of times he has had similar incidents in which he was warned about has yet to be disclosed. If he has done this multiple times this school year with the same teacher or possibly other teachers who have warned him, would it justify the harsh punishment? Considering the fact he is senior student athlete looking for scholarships, should the school system look at this situation as a young man’s mistake and be more lenient for the sake of his future? With petitions being signed and politics of the school system, only time can tell what Sam McNair’s fate will be. All people can do is hope that he has learned from this experience.

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