Massachusetts Mom Says Son's School Suspended Him For Hugging His Gym Teacher Because He's Black
The seventh grader originally received a 10-day suspension and a disciplinary record.
A foster mother is calling for a change of action after her son was suspended and received a disciplinary record for physical assault after hugging his teacher.
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The 12-year-old Black student, who attends Forest Grove Middle School in Worcester, Massachusettes, received a 10-day suspension for hugging his teacher after being told to sit out of gym class.
According to Julie Orozco, the boy's foster mother, she was informed he put his hands on the white gym instructor.
"I was shocked and asked for details on what happened, and then I was told that he hugged his gym teacher," she said.
While the seventh grader admits he was "goofing off" with his friends in gym class, he said, "At the end of the day, I just hugged her, nothing really happened."
He further explained when the teacher told him to sit out, he went over to give her a hug and asked not to be reprimanded. He claims he wanted to continue playing dodgeball with the rest of his classmates.
Orozco said the teacher resisted the hug and insisted the 12-year-old sit out temporarily. He was later allowed to reconvene with his friends but was called into the principal's office during his next class, NBC 10 reported.
The foster mother met with Superintendent Maureen Binienda and other district officials about the incident. She was told that her son's hug was "too tight, forceful and aggressive," adding that he should have known it was inappropriate.
"Their [the school’s] story seems to constantly evolve to match what he’s being accused of," she told Telegram. "But not my son’s – his story has been consistent since day one."
According to Orozco, there was misinformation about the teacher's boundaries which were not clearly set with the students.
"I don't expect the teacher to have to be OK with being touched or being hugged, but I do expect as an educator that she educate what the boundaries are in her classroom," she said. "If you can admit to me that you didn't have a mechanism or a process, or any way of informing students what your expectations were, but then in the same breath you say to me, 'He's 12, he should know hugs are not OK,' it's confounding."
Orozco also believes her son's race played a role in the school's response to the incident. She said she thinks the school's recent effort to promote trauma-sensitive education fell short in this situation.
"When he saw me, he just started crying," she recalled from the day she picked him up from school. "The thing he kept saying was, ‘I’m just so confused. If she didn’t want me to hug her, why didn’t she tell me that?'"
After reaching out to the school and attending a hearing, Orozco said she was able to get her son's disciplinary record reduced to "disruption of school." His suspension was also reduced to four days.
According to NBC 10, the school district has not offered any comment on the incident.