This story is up on CNN headlined "An Innocent Hug or Sexual Harassment?
The event in question was caught on video. CNN link here:
The boy and his family say they are huggers, and it was an innocent hug. He said he had hugged this teacher before.
The teacher said “that she had warned Sam about hugging in the past.” I assume she means hugging her, but it could have been about hugging others. She also said he put his lips to her neck.
I think I’m going to side with the teacher here. I don’t see any indication that something lead to a ‘hugging situation’ here. Usually you see some kind of behavior leading to a hug- a greeting, a smile, etc. But, he approaches her from the side here- not a normal hugging approach.
Also, he does seem to turn his head a bit that could have been him pressing his lips to her neck.
So, he could have been using his hug to intimidate her or force unwanted contact with her in a supposedly public and socially acceptable way. I think that’s what he was indeed doing here, knowing that mostly women will just put up with that kind of behavior and not call attention to it.
She clearly pushed him away. Probably because he had indeed done this to her before.
If the teacher’s side of this story is correct, then this kid is creepy and needs to be called out for this kind of behavior.
In a perfect world, hugging people would be fine. But it isn’t a perfect world. Some people don’t like to be touched. They find it creepy. Unwanted physical contact is not good, and can be actionable. After a certain number of warnings, legal escalation is possible.
My sympathies are with good-natured, well-intentioned huggers. They aren’t evil. But they have to learn the concept of personal boundaries, and how to account for individual preferences.
In our non-perfect society, that’s usually accomplished by asking permission and respecting the answer.
I’m not a hugger myself. I’m all for it if people want to, but I think it’s important to make sure it’s wanted. My wife is a hugger and you can watch her body language as she essentially signals “I’m about to hug you” and then they either extend their arms or back off or something based on whether they want her to do it or not.
It’s a little like hand-shaking. You don’t just walk up and grab someone’s hand. You put out your hand as a non-verbal “request” and they put out theirs and you shake. That gives them a chance to stick their hands in their pockets or apologize for having the cold or whatever their issue might be.
So in a case like this, I have to side with the teacher. I’m not sure if the school’s punishment is appropriate to the full background of the issue, but it’s not enough for the kid to protest that it was just a friendly hug.
I don’t think the hug on the video was any sexual in nature. I do think FUCK OUT OF MY PERSONAL SPACE YOU CLINGY CREEP WHAT THE FUCK, however.
Then again, I never grokked the American hugging culture. Weirds me right out. This coming from a guy whose culture does cheek kisses as a “hello” - which got me one very hurried step back and panicked look from an American girl that one time I spent a summer working over at y’all’s place across the water :). I smacked my forehead, apologized and explained it’s a thing French people do, but I forgot Americans don’t and please please please don’t let it become weird. Then I certainly didn’t do it again the next day.
My point is, if the teacher told him to cut the shit before and he didn’t listen then yeah, I do believe some Official Notice is in order to let this kid know that his culture is not everyone’s culture and trying to enforce his is Not OK. It’s a bit sad for him to lose a scholarship over it, but whatareyagonnado ?
From the video, that was way too big (too much contact, too long) of a hug to give to someone who has not given any signal that they are interested in receiving it. (Sorry for the awkward sentence) Body language counts, and hers was not inviting. First he put his left arm around her shoulder, got no reaction that I could see, then he wrapped his right arm and the rest of his body all the way around her and held on for a couple of seconds. That’s not a normal hug to give to anyone to whom your aren’t related or in a romantic relationship with.
I fully understand that his intentions were probably not sexual, so calling it sexual harassment seems off, but I don’t know what else to call it. I think a year’s suspension for an error in judgment is also probably overkill, unless there is more to this than is in the story.
I think one month suspension would be a strong enough message to lay off in future.
IMO there’s a difference between hugging a teacher and hugging a friend. You might hug a friend if you think they’re having a bad day, but that’s not something you would be doing with a teacher. So that (among other things) makes the kid’s story suspect, to me.
Yes, the hug was creepy. And yes, my sympathies are with the teacher. And yes, the kid’s old enough that he should have learned what’s inappropriate years ago. And yes, if the teacher had warned him of this before, there should be some kind of punishment.
But a year suspension? I’d expect that for an overtly sexual act, not a hug. Especially since it may have lifelong consequences to the kid. That’s cruel.
I cosign this. The teacher has a right to take offense, and the school is right to enact some form of discipline. But a year’s suspension seems way too excessive.
Punishing acts of harrassment so severely makes people reluctant to complain about harrassment in general. Which is both good and bad. Harrassment charges shouldn’t be thrown around willy-nilly and absolutely never without good cause. Yet, people shouldn’t be afraid to come forward if someone is indeed encroaching their boundaries. If I’m a high school kid and I know a small-time offender might be suspended for a year (and then go on CNN to plead his case) if I “tattle” on him, I might choose to suffer in silence while he continues to work my nerves. Then he never learns that what he’s doing is wrong. Maybe it wouldn’t be this way if the punishment fit the crime.
Agree if that’s all there is to it. But the quote in the article was hinting pretty heavily that the student had a previous history that was a factor in his suspension, even while saying they couldn’t discuss specifics due to privacy concerns.
(I always feel kind of sorry for public servants that work with children in cases like this, since they’re almost always stuck being unable to defend themselves due to child privacy laws, while the parents get to book time on CNN to give their side of the story).
I’d expect nothing less than expulsion for an overt sexual act towards a teacher (by a 17 y.o.). But a year sounds a bit much - six months or 3 would be enough. But losing the scholarship I’m also cool with. Kid was told before, he didn’t listen. He doesn’t deserve a (hypothetical, it turns out) scholarship.
Just to put it in perspective, if a teacher came up behind a 17 year old student and gave an unwanted hug in that way, they would lose their credential, never teach again, might end up in jail and definitely would be sued by the parents for touching their kid. What if it were a coworker he did that to? He’d be lucky if he were only fired. Not to say that the student deserves the same punishment but a 17 year old should know better than to touch without permission. It’s pretty established in our society that initiating unwanted physical contact (rightfully or wrongfully) raises the punishment level.
Add to that it seemed more of an attack than being in front of the person and indicating you want to hug them. And that BS about “I’m a hugger”? Can I go around saying “I’m a frotteurist.” and so it’s OK to rub your butt without permission? Or better yet, “I’m a voyeur.” so I can spy on you and hell, I’m not even touching you.
His actions were clearly unwanted physical affection. Her response showed that quite plainly. This is textbook sexual harassment. That, combined with the fact that everyone except the boy and his family, are claiming that he has been warned about such behavior before and the fact that everyone, including the boy and his family, have admitted that he has been a dicipline problem in the past, which was a factor in the decision makes me think that this was a prefectly fitting punishment for him. So he loses a shot at scholarships? Boo-Hoo. Next time keep your hands to yourself like a normal person. Having to pay for your own schooling is a small price for a valuable lesson he should have learned far before now.
I think the boy was using a social norm to intimidate and harass the teacher and is now playing innocent. The reason I think so is that he was warned about his behavior before and in the video he seems to be imposing on the teacher and lingering too long.
I hope he learns a lesson from this. That lesson is ‘Some people won’t put up with your BS.’
I disagree with the sexual part. Similar to the recent incident with a 6 year old kissing another 6 year old on the hand, if sex (i.e. intercourse) isn’t part of the scenario, I don’t consider it sexual harassment.
A hug is not inherently sexual contact, and if he has not at any time implied a desire for sexual contact with the teacher, or attempted sexual contact at a different time, I would consider this just plain harassment.