An Atlanta student who 'hugged' his teacher has been suspended for a year for violating school rules on sexual harassment.
Sam NcNair, a 17-year-old senior at Duluth High School was suspended on 3 December after breached the Gwinnett County Public Schools' rules on sexual harassment, Atlanta station WGCL has reported.
Now, a petition calling for his school to overturn has suspension has been started and has already garnered 3,000 signatures. The petition argues the punishment is "extreme" and "does not fit the violation".
In CCTV footage McNair can be seen placing his arm around the back and front of the teacher and placing his head behind her neck.
The unidentified teacher involved in the incident alleges McNair’s lips came into contact with the back of her neck and her cheek, according to the discipline report cited by WGCL.
In the WGCL interview, McNair said the teacher had never warned him against hugging and says he did not kiss or sexually harass the teacher.
His mother April McNair told the station she was worried his suspension would affect his academic career. "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 said.
Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for the school system, told Reuters she is limited in what she can say about the case since it is a disciplinary matter.
Roach said the suspension was handed down after a "review of the known facts." She said school officials take into account witness testimony and a student's past disciplinary history when they examine disciplinary issues, and the decision can be appealed to Georgia's State Board of Education.
WGCL reported that Sam McNair has a school disciplinary record but not for sexual harassment.
Additional reporting by Reuters