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It’s Just a Hug

By December 18, 2013March 25th, 2020Editor's Note
On December 15, 2013, several media outlets were in a frenzy about “a hug”.
Sam McNair, a Gwinnett County Student, appeared to give one of his teachers “a show of affection”.

As stated by both Sam and his mother April, they are “huggers” and the extension of his affection was purely innocent because in their worlds, hugs help people because “you never know what someone is going through”.
And there it began, his version, her version, and the rules that govern it all.
As a former classroom teacher, I pride myself in being a teacher’s teacher. I am the teacher who knows the rules, laws, and the implications of school politics. I know how to navigate the system while getting teachers what they need and deserve. It’s not an easy task because there are so few teacher’s teachers and many go along to get along. That’s all fine and well but sometimes there has to be stance, in instances like this, there should be several stances.
Based on the video and information reported, I support the teacher 100%.
She absolutely has the right to protect her personal space. Many say that the teacher is insensitive and over exaggerated but I disagree. A seventeen year old student knows what personal space is and the general respect that goes along with it. From the perspective of Sam and his mother, hugging is OK, hugging is innocent, no harm no foul. Oh yes dear, it is harmful and foul when you have been asked to keep a certain distance and said hugs aren’t welcomed. It’s not like this student is 7 years old and in the second grade, he’s a senior and a man by societal standards.
The video has two poignant reactions; the teachers initial reaction which seemed to be a general acceptance, though reluctant by patting his hand. Thereafter, the student leaned in and seemed to nestle his head on the back of her neck; inappropriate and her reactions shows this. The entire exchange was inappropriate but his second behavior is what moved it from a simple “whoa, back up” to the need to report it.
As teachers and public servants, we have the duty and responsibility to report inappropriate actions. Sam’s actions were indeed inappropriate based on the school’s rules and the thinking society’s rules.
After a teacher formally reports an incident, it is the administrator’s role to review the facts, statements, and impose a consequence, not the teachers. At this point, the teacher has no further involvement unless she is called to testify at tribunal; which this case had to escalate. The principal can impose a consequence up to 10 days without tribunal; anything longer than that has to go to school services (or whatever it’s called in each jurisdiction) for a hearing. At tribunal, the parties involved testify, the student’s record is presented, and a decision is made.
Based on this case, Sam had previous behavioral incidents which impacted the seemingly harsh punishment. One year is a long time, however the punishment aligns with the total history, the underpinning of race, not just this incident. In any regard, the student’s mother can appeal. She has options, he has options, and college isn’t ruled out nor is his life ruined.
The teacher or school could have filed criminal charges but they did not.
This is lesson on setting boundaries:
  • You can not impose your personal beliefs on someone else.
  • There are harsher consequences for black people.
  • Teachers are not villains.
  • I support the teacher.
How dare any of you suggest the teacher is crass or should be shamed for protecting her personal space? She did not wake up that morning and decide, “Hey, let me ruin a child’s life by doing my job”.
It makes no sense in the least.
This woman may be someone’s mother or wife; she’s someone’s daughter, friend, and possibly sister. She deserves to have her wishes of being respected honored as does he. Regardless of how innocent most hugs are, if the affection isn’t wanted, it’s no longer innocent, it’s harassment.
Support teachers, teach student boundaries, and we will have a better union for educating children.
Photo and video credit remain with its original author.

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Tags: “Gwinnett County Schools” “Sam McNair” “hugging teachers” “teachers in Atlanta” “Atlanta hugging incident” “student suspended for hugging teacher” “one year suspension for hugging teacher”

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