Prattville Student Punished for Hugging Classmate Appears on NBC's Today Show - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Prattville Student Punished for Hugging Classmate Appears on NBC's Today Show

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The debate of public displays of affection in school is hitting home in Alabama and has even caught national attention.

The mother of a student in Autauga County says her daughter was disciplined for simply hugging a friend.

Thursday, the mother and daughter appeared on NBC's The Today Show, to talk about their frustration with a punishment they believe is over the line.

"When I went through school, I hugged my friends," said Lea Muir.

Her daughter was given detention Monday at Prattville Junior High School. She called it an overreaction.

"It's a little bit extreme, I think."

But according the Autauga County School System's code of conduct, "Inappropriate public displays of affection, including but not limited to embracing and kissing" are not allowed.

Autauga County isn't the only one school district dealing with the issue.

Just last week, a school in Illinois disciplined a student for the very same thing and a Texas student got in trouble for holding hands with a friend.

"It was made to be something ugly and it wasn't," Muir said.

She says the hug wasn't meant to be sexual. She says her daughter was consoling a male friend who recently lost a parent.

"What's it going to come to next?," she asked. "You can't high five or touch anybody? You can't brush by someone in the hallway?"

Muir says her daughter served out her punishment and she doesn't plan to take any legal action. But she encourages the school system to reevaluate its policy.

WSFA 12 News checked with other local school systems and found a more leeway in their codes of conduct. In Montgomery and Elmore counties, for example, touching must be of a sexual nature to be considered inappropriate.

Autauga County school officials didn't agree to an on-camera interview, but told WSFA 12 News, they were simply following the rules.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled schools could be held liable by ignoring claims of sexual harassment. Some say the ruling puts schools between a rock and a hard place. By not identifying all suspect behavior, they risk liability.  But when they do, they often hear complaints from parents.

Reporter: Mark Bullock

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