A 17-year-old won't be seeing the inside of a school any time soon. Sam McNair was suspended from school for an entire year. His crime? He hugged a teacher! It may sound like a sweet thing, but a hug is a violation of the sexual harassment policy at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Duluth, Georgia.
Considering just a week ago I defended a 6-year-old charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate on the hand, you may be surprised by my reaction to this student's suspension.
I think it's a little harsh -- really, a whole year? -- but I can't blame the high school for creating a no hugging policy.
The key words here? High school.
A 6-year-old who kisses a fellow student doesn't have sex on the brain. Teenagers, because of the science of hormones and human development, do.
The teen years are very confusing times because kids' bodies are rebelling against them. They're beginning to feel things they never felt before; they're having a sexual awakening. The last thing they need is to have contact -- appropriate or not -- with an adult at school that confuses them.
Think about it. Every day you turn on the news to find some teacher somewhere has crossed the line with a teenage student.
In every single case, I blame the teacher. They're the adult. They shouldn't be preying on innocent kids.
That said, when you leave the door open to contact between students and teachers, you also leave the door open to confusion on the part of kids who are hungry for sexual contact. You lead to kids who are easily led by perverts preying on them or you lead to kids who are simply confused. An innocent hug can quickly become something else ... if only in the mind of a teenager whose hormones are going haywire.
That's not good for kids.
And quite frankly, it isn't good for the good teachers.
Innocent teachers can get caught up in scandals they never meant to create -- there have been plenty of good teachers brought down by claims of sexual misconduct that later turned out to be false. And teachers can be sexually harassed by hormonal teenagers. I recall all too well how the boys in my class would drop pencils so the female teachers would pick them up ... and the boys could get a peek down her blouse. As a reporter who used to cover high school sports, I've heard more than my fair share of inappropriate comments from teenage boys. I took them for what they were -- kids being stupid -- but hearing them every day, and dealing with kids getting handsy, isn't right.
They may be kids, but by high school, they're old enough to know better.
They're also old enough to understand no contact policies and to follow them.
In the case out of Georgia, the teacher claims she told the football and lacrosse playing 17-year-old not to hug her previously, but he came up behind her and put his arms around her anyway. Sam McNair says it's simply because he's a hugger and wanted to cheer her up.
That may be, but the fact remains that there was a policy in place, and he violated it.
It would be a lot nicer world if we didn't have to worry about inappropriate contact between teachers in students -- on either side of the coin -- but the fact is, this is the world we live in. And it's not unreasonable to expect teenagers to adhere to a few rules, is it?
What do you think of schools that ban physical contact between students and teachers? Would you support that sort of rule at your child's school?
Image via jessleecuizon/Flickr