JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Two lesbian students at White Oak High School say their principal suspended them for three days after they were found hugging. The students say school administrators do not punish heterosexual students similarly.

According to WCTI, Virginie Perrault and Judy Weatherington were hugging in the hallway when a teacher split them up.

Assistant Superintendent Barry Collins said the students were punished not for hugging but because they disrespected the teacher who confronted them.

“The allegation that students are being targeted is false,” Collins said in a statement. “Students were suspended for being disrespectful to a teacher.”

Perrault says there is a double-standard at the school.

“There are other students who kiss in the hallway all the time,” Perrault told the station. “Teachers don’t say anything to them. I guess it’s unusual to see a girl and a girl hugging each other.”

Other students have also criticized Principal Debra M. Bryan, who suspended the girls. They also say she does not punish heterosexual couples for the same actions, but one student came to the principal’s defense. She has come under criticism for not punishing heterosexual couples for similar behavior.

“I don’t think that she singles out anyone,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “They were caught in the moment. It could have been any couple.”

The high school’s handbook bans hugging, kissing, and other displays of personal affection. : :

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.