In The News:
Duluth, Ga.—The college plans of high school senior Sam McNair are on hold after he received a one-year suspension for sexual harassment. Surveillance video shows Sam, 17, giving a female teacher a bear hug in his school’s hallway. She then pushes him away. In the discipline report, the teacher said Sam’s lips and cheeks touched her neck and that she’d previously warned Sam about hugging.
Sam’s mother, April McNair, said she and her son are both huggers and that his penalty will affect his ability to get an athletic scholarship for college.
Sam denied kissing the teacher and said he hadn’t been warned about hugging. He admitted he has a discipline record but not for sexual harassment. “Something so, so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite,” he said. “You never know what someone’s going through. A hug might help.”
Reaction to the incident has been mixed. After viewing the video, some people say the hug was inappropriate but the discipline too severe. “This is crazy,” someone commented online. “Now we can’t hug people anymore. What in the world?”
In related news, a Colorado school district dropped sexual harassment charges last week against a first-grade boy who kissed a classmate. Six-year-old Hunter Yelton had an innocent crush on a female classmate, said his mom, who was outraged to have him labeled a sexual harasser.
But the girl’s mother said Hunter tried to kiss her daughter repeatedly. “I’ve had to coach her about what to do when you don’t want someone touching you but they won’t stop,” said Jade Masters-Ownbey.
School superintendent Robin Gooldy said, “Our main interest in this is having the behavior stop because the story is not just about the student that was disciplined, it is also about the student receiving the unwanted advances.”
Sources: cnn.com, ajc.com
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How do you feel about the behavior of these boys and the consequences they face? If you’ve seen the video of Sam hugging his teacher, do you think he acted innocently or crossed the line? Explain. If Sam had indeed been warned about his behavior, how does that affect your opinion of this incident? Does he deserve to lose the rest of his senior year? Why or why not?
At what age do you think kids are aware of and responsible for behavior that makes other people feel uncomfortable? Did 6-year-old Hunter deserve to be labeled a sexual harasser? Why or why not? If your child or teenager were receiving unwanted advances, what would you tell him or her? What would you want done to the perpetrator?
When might a hug help someone in need, and when might it backfire? What steps might people need to take to ensure that their affectionate behavior isn’t misinterpreted?
What’s the role of hugging in churches and schools, whether between adults, between kids, or between adults and kids? Should all types of PDA (public displays of affection) be off-limits? Why or why not?
Have you ever felt uncomfortable because of the type or amount of contact from someone? If so, how did you handle it?
How can young people learn appropriate boundaries for expressing affection? Physical touch is one of the so-called “love languages”; what are some other ways people like to give and receive affection? How can you smooth out a friendship or relationship when people have different love languages?
Do you think Jesus was a “hugger”? Why or why not? What are some other concrete ways Jesus expressed love to people he met?
Scripture links: Genesis 34:1-7; Psalm 36:1-2; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 5:21-43; and Ephesians 5:3-5.