- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Georgia high school student was suspended for a year after a surveillance video caught him hugging his teacher, and a petition calling for his “extreme punishment” to be lifted has gained significant support.

Sam McNair, a senior at Duluth High School, was suspended on Dec. 3 when a school hearing officer found he violated the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ rules on sexual harassment, CBS Atlanta reported.

“Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite,” Mr. McNair told the station. “You never know what someone’s going through. A hug might help.”

Surveillance footage shows Mr. McNair approach the teacher from her side and place his arms around the front and back of her. He then tucks his head behind her neck.

The teacher alleged that the student’s lips touched the back of her neck at that moment, which Mr. McNair denies. She also alleged in the discipline report that she warned him in the past about sexual harassment, which Mr. McNair also denies, CBS reported.

The teen’s mother, April McNair, said the district had a responsibility to notify her if of her son’s behavior before suspending him and hurting his chances for a scholarship.

“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 CBS.

A petition on Change.org asked the Gwinnett County Public School District to overturn the student’s suspension. It had reached 2,268 signatures at the time of this report.

“I’m currently in Afghanistan fighting for a free nation, if a kid can’t hug a teacher what am I fighting for?” one petitioner commented.

“The last thing society needs is another young person who doesn’t realize their fullest potential,” another wrote. “This has ramifications far beyond whatever may have happened in that moment.”