PALM BAY, Fla. – A 14-year-old Florida student who hugged his friend was suspended as a result of his middle school's zero-tolerance no-hugging policy, myFOXorlando.com reported.
Nick Martinez said he gave a quick hug to his best friend, a female student, between classes.
The public display of affection was spotted by the principal of Palm Bay's Southwest Middle School, 74 miles southeast of Orlando. While the principal said he believed the hug was innocent, he brought the two students to the school's dean, who penalized them with in-school suspensions.
According to the Southwest Middle School's student handbook, students can receive a one-day out-of-school suspension for kissing, while students caught hugging or hand-holding are penalized with a dean's detention or suspension.
School administrators said a committee of parents approved the "no hugging" policy years ago, and there aren't plans to change it any time soon.
The school's strict policy stipulates that there is no difference between an unwanted hug, or sexual harassment, and a hug between friends.
Christine Davis, spokesman for Brevard County School said the school's "focus is on learning; therefore, we cannot discriminate or make an opinion on what is an appropriate hug, what's not an appropriate hug," said Davis. "What you may think is appropriate, another person may view as inappropriate."
"A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it," Nick said. "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."
Nick's mother, Nancy Crecente, said she plans to ask the school board to change the policy.
Newscore contributed to this report.