Family of Georgia student suspended for teacher hug files appeal

Posted at 10:15 PM, Dec 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-19 00:15:12-05

By CNN Staff

(CNN) — The family of a Georgia student suspended for the rest of the school year for hugging a teacher has filed an appeal with the school board, the teen’s mother told CNN on Wednesday night.

Sam McNair, a 17-year-old high school senior in Duluth, Georgia, was suspended December 3 for sexual harassment.

Surveillance video captured the hug in question, showing Sam placing his arms around the teacher and giving her a hug. The teacher then pushes him away.

McNair told “Piers Morgan Live” that he had hugged that teacher at Duluth High School before.

“Four or five times,” he said. “I hug all my teachers. It’s to show appreciation for what they do for me.”

He denied that the teacher had told him before to not hug her again. He also said that his lips and cheeks definitely didn’t touched the teacher’s neck, as is alleged in a discipline report obtained by CNN affiliate WGCL.

In a statement earlier this week, Sloan Roach, a spokesperson for the Gwinnett County Public Schools, told CNN, “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.”

“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,” Roach added.

Since this is a discipline issue, the law prohibits the district from sharing details about the student’s situation or the student’s past discipline history, said the spokeswoman.

McNair acknowledged he had also been suspended for lengthy periods in the seventh and ninth grades, but said the first incident was from a BB gun that another student placed in his bag, and the second stemmed from medicine a teammate gave him for an injury. He had a bad reaction and it caused a “big school disruption,” he said.

April McNair, Sam’s mother, said she was never notified that her son’s behavior this year was a problem.

“Sam is a lovable kid,” she said, adding that he treated everyone that way.

She said an appeal was sent Wednesday to the school board. She remains concerned this will negatively impact her son’s future.

“This is his senior year,” April McNair said. “You’ve stripped that of him.”

Sam McNair said he is more cautious about he now greets people and if they seem hesitant he passes on the hug.

“I make sure I present myself as a gentleman,” he said.

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