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Who Is Being Harrassed?

This morning we have an interesting story about a six-year-old boy whose permanent public school record says he committed "Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive," when he smacked the bottom of a first-grade female classmate during recess. The whacker was taken the principal's office and reprimanded. An incident report was written. The Prince William County (Va.) police were called.

The mother of the child who was hit dismissed the incident, saying, "we know it's just children playing around" and that "I'm upset with the school."

As Brigid Schulte reports, school officials will not discuss the case, but do say the call to the police was the result of a misunderstanding.

The majority of our readers who have commented by this hour find the misunderstanding misunderstandable. Some suggest litigation to, at a minimum, force removal of the notation in the school record. Many see this as beyond reason and some suggest it is another example of why public schools don't work. (That's easier to say, of course, if you can afford something else.) School officials get some defenders, who point out that administrators are often hamstrung by rules and regulations insisted upon by overly protective parents and defensive boards of education.

Stories like this shed valuable information about what's going but also inevitably draw comments that show how different people from different backgrounds and persuasions draw very different conclusions from the same information. I make that observation after reading a few comments that question whether the boy received appropriate parenting.

One reader questions whether washingtonpost.com should run the boy's photograph. It does not appear in the printed Washington Post I received at my doorstep this morning and I think the question is a good one.

We'll start with readerny, who said, "...this seems clearcut but it's not. It is possible for children to be touching others in sexually inappropriate ways...Yet, in this article, it sounds like the boy did something rather innocent and the administration overreacted."

John991 wrote, "Jeez. Maybe they should make him register as a sex offender? America is going nuts."

rahaha said, "Reason number 1 million that we need more private schools" and ComfortablyDumb asked, "How are kids supposed to learn anything from people so stupid?"

rcvinson64 offered a definition of "ZERO TOLERANCE: a policy to eliminate thought and pass on a problem."

But tristesse27 said, "Not sure why everyone is blaming the school administration. These are rules all brought on from parents' incessant arguing to "protect our children." Administers simply follow the rules that are put into place."

newcanoes said, "...Mama needs a lawyer, if only to get that permanent record corrected or at least accompanied by a statement from the "victim's" mother that she thinks the whole business is a tempest in a teapot. And the kid should be transferred because they probably will never view him fairly..."

dbarnes6 said, "This is over kill. Sexual harassment from 6 year olds? They don't even know what it is at that point... I can understand in middle and high school but pre-school and elementary school is too much..."

But Edie1 wrote, "Innocent or not, if I saw this kid smacking my daughter's bottom, either the school deals straightens him out or the police do. What supervision is this kid getting at home? And what are his parents letting him be exposed to?"

And fake1 said, "Maybe this mom should take away little Randy's TV rights and do some parenting..."

bobmossnj said, "Our society is rapidly disintegrating into idiocy. Adults no longer understand the most fundamental aspects of childhood... This is an age when children should be taught about appropriate behavior, not be given adult punishments for childish behavior."

kansasgal1 said, "Sounds like the little girl's mother is the only one with a dose of common sense in this story. As a school counselor, I would have had a conversation with both the children together and brought their parents in and that would have been the end of the story..."

paixfpn wrote, "As a former high school teacher... this story only furthers the opinion of mine and most, if not all, of the teachers I worked with: school administrators are frequently some of the most asinine people one can meet in this life..."

But we'll close with realgrrl who said, "...I must happily say that all the dealings I have had with 'school people' -- principals, guidance counselors, teachers, custodians, cafeteria employees, and so on -- have all been professional, courteous and responsive. The teachers I have met are committed to their vocations, and there are much easier jobs out there."

All comments on the harassment story are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  April 3, 2008; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Comments

I'm not saying Belgium is heaven on earth, but here people who teach children must have had an education which includes child psychology.
From the reactions I can tell there's intelligent life at your side of the ocean, but why is it so hard to get those voices across?

Posted by: Reader from Belgium | May 7, 2008 5:19 AM | Report abuse

Ridiculous that officials allow this to go as far as it has. The young boy, 6 years old should have just been sent to the school counselor and there they could have told him that what he did was totally inappropriate. Instead they go too far and embellish his school record to make him look like a habitual sexual harrasser.

Come on people, stop going over board and teach children; not permanently scar them for life.

Posted by: Lorena | April 16, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I think they are not hamstrung by rules, rather they rely on rules and use those as an excuse not to think for themselves. It is much easier to say those are the rules. Walmart did it to a woman in a home when suing her to reimburse themselves for the insurance benefits she used! He is 6, give me a break. They called the cops, oh great because cops have nothing better to do than respond to a 6 year old who patted a classmate on her behind. Great. Good use of critical thinking educators!

Posted by: TeriM | April 12, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

It's interesting that the school would call the police on a 6 year old boy for the butt smacking when I DOUBT (sarcasm intended) there were any sexual overtones in his actions. But the teacher Debra Lafave, who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a student, just gets house arrest/probation for her actions. I am GUESSING (more sarcasm intended) that she had full knowledge of what her actions meant. Thank you "zero Tolerance" crowd.

Posted by: sru92 | April 11, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the elementary teacher at 11:45 am. You can't have it both ways when it comes to this kind of behaviour. As a high school teacher I deal with these kinds of comments on a weekly basis and every one must be reported. If I don't, say the kid tells Mom what he said, and that I let him. Then I'm on the block for God knows what. With the "teacher sex scandal" litigation being so prevalent these days (most are true, but some are ridiculous), we have to be far more careful than the general public realizes. Even at the elementary level, a referral is often time the way to deal with a situation immediately, and ON THE RECORD which, unfortunately, has become necessary for self-protection from litigation. A parent phone call is good, but it is still a "he-said, she-said" method. Any situation dealing with sex or obscenity and I write a referral, even if it is only to guidance.

Posted by: autumnsnow | April 3, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

often times at work a running gag that we have amongst the co-workers is similar in nature to what this young rapscallion did. When a young lady goes to sit down on her chair i put my hand on the chair flat with either my middle finger or thumb sticking up. Often times I'll get a giggle or if im lucky they will reciprocate. It s all in the name of fun so who cares. On fridays we draw names from hats and one lucky young lady is the recipient of a shocker. Lifes too short have fun.

Posted by: one in the air | April 3, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

At this rate I fear the human race may not reproduce. A thousand years from now- aliens will land on our little planet, and wonder where everybody is at - Look at the headlines - children treated like adults, more laws against sex crimes than murder. no wonder they died out - lack of intelligence.

Posted by: dave | April 3, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Girls grab my butt all the time and I love it. They always ask me to grab theirs. That's how we say hello to each other. Plus when you grab each others butt, you are not touching direct skin as opposed to shaking someones bare hand which you never know where it has been. Citizens of America who are terrified of butt smacking and grabing should be ashamed of themselves. We are all under cover perverts in this country. The porn industry in America is the largest in the world. Thank goodness for internet, now no one will ever see us renting that porn tape from the local video store.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

When my daughter had a boy grabbing her bottom in the swimming pool last year the direction I gave her was to tell him in a loud clear voise to get his hand off her butt, and if that didnt work grab his ear and tell him again. The voice worked, humiliation is a much better tactic

Posted by: Chet Brewer | April 3, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

When I was in seventh grade, I patted a girl on the butt in gym class, after she scored a point in a basketball game, this girl and I were close friends and she would always hit me where ever she wanted, but me patting her butt made her angry and reported me to the administrators, I was called in the principal's office and was given a 30 minutes lecture on why it's bad to hit or pat a girl. After apologizing to that girl, I was given a warning and sent back to class. I never patted or hit a girl in school again, me patting this girl that day was not sexual at all but a form of celebration, if you watch any sports on TV these days patting someone's butt is almost mandatory during celebrations. My school teacher and administrators didn't call the police or my parents and took care of the problem the way this problem should've been taken care of.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Tharriso... Comments like yours tell me that the judgement process of our elementary school teachers is warped. There needs to be a whole range of responses to actions... not one response (call the police, discipline and label a 6 year old child a sex offender). The kid should have been punished for striking a classmate and reprimanded by his teacher. The End. If the behavior repeats, involve the parents and progressive discipline.

Sounds simple to me.

Posted by: Rick | April 3, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

When I was in 6th grade, about 14 years ago (I can't remember), some kid kept fondling my butt. I would tell him to stop and he wouldn't. Now, I would just punch a guy in the face for doing that; but then, I didn't know what to do. I constantly felt sick to my stomach and I was crying a lot.

I finally confessed to my worried mother what was happening, and she instructed me to tell the teacher. I did, and in just a few days, there were multiple trips to the guidance counselor's office for both me and the boy. It culminated in us both signing something official-looking from the state of Maryland. The counselor probably tried to explain it to us, but we were 11 or 12.

I bumped into this guy's sister when I was 17, and she told me I had ruined his life with the sexual harassment incident noted on his student record.

I don't think that procedure was necessary. It scared both of us to get interrogated and sign state-recognized documents. Thank goodness the police weren't called to the school...

However, I also wonder what the correct solution to these cases is. If a student is guilty of intentionally harassing another student with actions or words concerning gender, sexual orientation, etc., there needs to be immediate and meaningful action taken. These students need to learn to respect others and make the learning environment comfortable for everyone.

What about a stern talk from the principal with the parents present? Counseling? Should more serious disciplinary action start for repeat and older offenders?

For this six year-old boy, from my vantage point, it seems he just needs to get some guidance on inappropriate touching and comments.

Posted by: The fun we have in middle school! | April 3, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Actually, this sort of nonsense is part and partial with the Clinton crowd of feminists. As these nutballs have weaselled their way into our schools, they have "feminized" the classrooms and done untold harm to male students. These blind fanatics, like Dee Meyers and Hillary CLtinon, write books about what a wonderful world it would be if women ran things and everyone was raised as a woman. God help us if they ever succeed.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | April 3, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

It seems people are losing their sense of discernment. We react to everything at a level 10 that really only justifies a level 2. A 6 year old pats a girl on the butt. This is an opportunity to teach him about boundaries and touching other people like rational adults instead of going off the deep end like a bunch of drama queens.

When I bought a new car a few years ago my neighbor's six year old came up to me and slapped my butt and said "nice car." I almost fell over laughing.

Posted by: JennieLou | April 3, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Put the parents and school officials on Ritalin. What a shame. No wonder we no longer can compete in a global economy. We have become a dsyfunctional nation. Another example of why I have started to look at the glass as half empty. What a messed up society.

Posted by: Peter | April 3, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

If a little girl kicks a boy in the groin, has she sexually harrassed him, or just played rough?

Posted by: Tom | April 3, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

It is ridiculous for a six-year-old boy to be hauled away by the police over a minor incident like this. These school administrators should be tarred and feathered for the psychological damage they have inflicted on this child. For shame.

And to tharriso, the elementary school teacher who described this child as an "offender," I can't even find the right word to describe your hysterical diatribe against this child. I am amazed that people with your level of intelligence continue to walk this earth.

News flash: a six year old is not a sex offender...

Posted by: Steve | April 3, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

It used to be that schools were run locally, by parents and teachers, who had common standards of morality and ethics, funded their schools locally, and could educate students without worrying about lawyers, teacher's unions, Federal mandates and the like. Now we have created a vast education bureacracy that attempts to cover every possible outcome, but takes no responsibility for that outcome

Posted by: PGR88 | April 3, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The Post should not have run the student's picture or name. While the child is (presumably) incapable of understanding what media exposure is, and its impact on an individual's life, the Post should certainly have known better. Children (even those in show business) are not adults and should not be treated the same way adults are treated. You run an adult criminal's photo in the paper - not the photo of a child at the center of a mishap.

Posted by: Reader in Houston | April 3, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

However, I do agree with the comment. Boys do play rougher and it was an easily discouraged activity. It should not have involved his permanent record nor the police.

NO, BOYS DO NOT PLAY ROUGHER. Rougher is an adjective. They play more roughly; an adverb ending in LY is usually used to modify a verb like "play."

Yeah, haha. I'm on my lunch break between classes.

Posted by: Cordy | April 3, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I am glad that my kids are not in this school system administered by deranged people. Where is the Country heading to? I feel sorry for the kid and his parents. Prince William County Residents should get rid of the whole Scholl Board, and the administrators of this particular schools. PWC Schools Administrators - shame on you, you are a disgrace not only your community but also to the entire nation. Please resign immediately.

Posted by: Ez | April 3, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry #1 poster at 11:45 am but if you are going to pick on someone's grammar, you need to check out your own. Boys play rougher not ruffer.

However, I do agree with the comment. Boys do play rougher and it was an easily discouraged activity. It should not have involved his permanent record nor the police.

Posted by: Another mom | April 3, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: tharriso | April 3, 2008 11:45 AM
said; I am an elementary teacher. It is what it.??? ========(WOW...Your an Elementary Teacher that cannot finish a clear sentence)

The consequence needs to fit the inappropriate behavior, yet sugar-coating the offense and its inappropriateness only serves to enable the offender to repeat the behavior.
======================================
I hope my kids do not have you as a Teacher. You are over the top ...

The kid is 6 years old.
DID YOU READ THAT!!
Boys play ruffer then girls.

It wa an over blown incident that could have been handedled on the spot.

BUT NO! Several anal retentative people lost in their personal sexuality issues now have this kid listed as a Sex Offender.

Yet I bet you cannot even Drive the speed limit anywhere.

Issa

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

School teachers have hard jobs, true. Nevertheless, accusing any 6 year old of "sexually" offensive touching is a classic picture of psychological projection BY THE PERSON DOING THE "interpretation". There may be touching. There may be offense. But adding a sexual motive to it comes from a brain more developed than a 6 year old, and I am not mistaken. Send that interpreter to couneling, and expunge that child's record. For God's sake, let these kids grow up and make mistakes. Its normal. The interpreting-teachers are not. They're stupid and arrogant.

Posted by: zaney8 | April 3, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I am an elementary teacher. It is what it. The consequence needs to fit the inappropriate behavior, yet sugar-coating the offense and its inappropriateness only serves to enable the offender to repeat the behavior. Children sometimes make threats, are ignored, then carry out the threats. Look at how the educational system is criticized when a Columbine like event occurs. The press screams that preventative measures should have been taken at the first sign of deviant behavior. When the school does take appropriate action at the first sign of deviant behavior, the press screams that the school is overreacting. You cannot have it both ways. If a six year old takes something from a classmate's backpack, that is stealing. Calling it by a softer name is enabling. The consequence should fit the age, however the child needs to know that this is stealing, and that it is wrong. Likewise, inappropriate sexual touch is just that. Calling it by a softer name is enabling and inappropriate. The consequence should fit the age, however the child needs to be made aware of the gravity of the situation. If this boy grows up to become a child molester, these same journalists who think they know so much about every subject, will turn around and say the school should have done something stronger when the child was young, in order to correct the behavior before it became habituated.

Posted by: tharriso | April 3, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I think that public school teachers have a really difficult time these days. There is a ridiculous amount of pressure put on teachers to discipline. The problem is parents are disciplining their children at home so the school feels an added pressure. And you have these young children (see the story about the third graders plotting to kill their teacher) abusing others whether it be physical or verbal or sexual. Some say first graders are too young but remember the day when we said 9-year-olds were too young to be having sex? But, guess what, they are and they DO know what it is. We excuse these children because of their age but we have to take notice at the trend that is taking place.

Posted by: Loves | April 3, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I think that they should set an example to other kids, burn his little but. Childeren are having children now. Catch it early, my son is in the 9th grade, he told his father and I that it is rediculous at his school, 40 percent of the 9th grade girls are pregnant, parents aren't teaching something at home.

Posted by: shea | April 3, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

This incident would have been the perfect time to teach the boy about inappropriate behavior-at a 6-year old level. I totally agree with the school counselor: the behavior should have been discussed with the children and their parents and then let go.

Posted by: TEN10 | April 3, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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