Nick Martinez suspended due to Southwest Middle School's strict no hugging policy

4:42 AM, Nov 3, 2011   |    comments
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PALM BAY, Fla. - A mother plans to change policies at a Brevard County public school after her son was suspended for a hug.

When Nick Martinez, 14, received his suspension for a public display of affection at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay, his mom wanted to know why.

"I wanted to know if he had touched her inappropriately? Did she report it? Did she say anything about it? It was a mutual hug," said Nancy Crescente, the boy's mother.

Nick said he quickly hugged the girl, who he called his best friend, between classes. The principal saw it and hauled them off to the dean for an in-school suspension. Even the principal told WKMG Local 6 that the hug was innocent.

Crescente said she was livid after both students were punished.

"First of all, we are a Hispanic cultural family and hugging is part of who we are," she said.

The school has a strict no hugging policy and is the only school in the district where hugging is not allowed. Under the policy, there is no difference between an unwanted hug, like sexual harassment, and a hug between friends.

"A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it," said Martinez.

"Honestly, I didn't know because I didn't think hugging was a bad thing. I didn't know you could get suspended for it," he added.

The school principal said students and parents should know the policy because it is written in the student handbook and is online. He said a committee of parents have signed off on this policy for years.

Crescente said she was aware of a policy, but said the policy is too broad and needs to be more specific.

She now fears her soon will be labeled as a troublemaker because the suspension goes on his permanent record.

"There's nothing wrong with hugging," said Crescente. "If there's nothing wrong with it in the legal system, why would there be something wrong with it in the school system?"

Not only does Crescente want the policy changed, but she also plans on talking to the school board and is willing to hire an attorney to make her point.

The principal said there is no plan to change the no-hugging policy. 

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