Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

A Slap on the Permanent Record

First-grader Randy Castro thought it looked fun to hit a little girl on her butt after watching another boy do the same. And for that, according to a Washington Post story yesterday by Brigid Schulte, he got tagged by his school as a sexual harasser and had the police called in to investigate.

In Virginia, where Randy lives, officials are supposed to "consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior" before labeling a child as having committed offensive sexual touch.

The story yesterday sparked nearly 300 comments with two prevailing thoughts represented:

wburn42167: What garbage! The principal should be disciplined for calling the police. Children at that age are not fully aware of sexuality. This is political correctness and bias against boys gone awry.
carolree: I'm in my early twenties now but remember at the age of seven, a male classmate repeatedly grabbed my crotch over an extended period of time. He laughed as he did it and he laughed at me when I told him not to. I told him to stop every time. He absolutely knew what he was doing was inappropriate and he'd often do it before getting off the schoolbus so he could run away. Behaviors that exhibit, or are in fact, sexist or devaluing of others, begins at a very early age, certainly by age seven. These days, a seven year old knows what parts of a body are "private." Police report--yes, it was overboard. But all of you people saying these kids don't know what is inappropriate and should be allowed to experiment, need a reality check and need to think about how it felt for a seven year old girl to be repeatedly sexually harassed and should know our bodies are not for places for this kind of "experiment." No wonder kids are sexually harassing each other, if you people are the type of parents raising them.
teejackson_93: Who are these people?! Who would think to call the police on a six-year-old who thought he was just playing around with a classmate?! For Pete's sake, can we let kids today grow up in peace?!
I am so sorry for the women who've responded here and cited being sexually harassed at a young age. But sexual harassment and this incident are so far removed from each other that it's too ridiculous to even contemplate. This incident only required a trip to the principal's office, a firm lecture on "keeping your hands to yourself," and a conference with the parent(s). Doesn't appear that he was a troublemaker beforehand. As a matter of fact, he seems like a normal first grader. Anyone remember how boys used to hit you if they like you at that age?
Now, if this little boy was stalking all the little girls on the playground on a daily basis and engaging in offensive behavior on the regular, I'd agree that there was a problem. He might even need counseling. Doesn't appear to be so here. The little boy can't even articulate what he did wrong.
Honestly, as a rational society we need to start thinking about the intent behind the deed before we label children. Let them be children without having to worry so much about adult themes and judgments. They'll learn all of that at the appropriate time.

I look at this story and my 6-year-old boy and his 6- and 7-year-old friends. The boys play hard. They wrestle. They grab where they aren't supposed to because they aren't always paying attention. A friend has had her first-grader hit by girls on the playground after he tormented them too much ... and she's fine with it. After all, her son learns his lesson that way. We've talked often about how boys learn about girls, and our talk always revolves around play on the playground. Girls aren't all that much different. They hug and kiss, and in this day and age, that, too, is considered sexual touch.

None of this is to say that Randy Castro was right to hit the girl. He, like any child, needs to learn right from wrong. And it's not to say that a young boy who continually thinks it's okay to grab a girl's private parts in fun is okay either. But have we become such a PC society that we can't let our boys learn in their own tactile manner?

If Randy was your son, how would you have reacted? How have your children learned about good and bad touching?

This Week's Talkers: Child's Dying Wish Going Unfulfilled ... Mom Jailed for Sending Kids to School With Lice ... Fifth Grader Finds Mistake at Smithsonian

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 4, 2008; 8:45 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
Previous: Rewards for Reading | Next: Boy Power or Girls Rule?

Comments


I can't believe it, but I agree with Bill O'Reilly -- on stuff like this. It is absolutely insane that this little boy, this 7-year old, is charged with anything like sexual harassment. I recognize that the school officials are between a rock and hard place, and that's at least partially the fault of stupid parents who sue for the least little things. However, I thought that what was worse was the teacher who charged a 4-year old with sexual harassment because he buried his face in her breasts. WHAT??? It makes me sick.

The coming generations should be interesting to deal with since we're treating them like this. Like little criminals. Self-fulfilling prophecy?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 4, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

My 1st grade son and his friends got in my car after school (an independent school in Washington, DC) yesterday and this story was the first thing out of their mouths. Their teacher had told them about the incident and they had discussed it in class. I had read the story earlier in the Post and so was able to discuss it with them (3 boys, 1 girl). It was interesting. Their teacher had not told them about the police being called but just about the visit to the priciple. She used it as a teaching tool, not as a threat. They had clearly discussed it in class with her and, in my car, they engaged in a lively discussion again. 2 of the children were not in that class and the other 2 filled them in. They then talked about your bottom being a private part and hitting being wrong and they definitely understood the rationale behind why it was wrong. They did not however see it as sexual. They do not know what sexual means. Admittedly, these kids are pretty protected from mass media and watch only age-appropriate TV programming. They may not be the typical American 1st graders, they may be a bit more innocent, but their daily behaviors seem like pretty typical 1st graders to me. Even though they know its is technically inapproprate behavior, I can see one of them getting overly excited and involved in play on the playground and smacking a playmate on the bottom. Kids at this age have a much lower impulse control mechanism and they dont think all their actions through beforehand. In the "heat of the moment" in play, this can easily happen and to lable it sexual harrassment is ludicrous. Yes, I do think there ARE predatory children this age in the world, but the one-time impulsive smack on the tushie is not grounds for a trip to the principle and police. A time out should suffice.

Posted by: Palisades | April 4, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I have a 7yo son in 2nd grade. My son acts 7. He hits other boys on the butt because that's what they all do. I have DRILLED it into him that he may not hit girls ever EVER. I have made it very clear he may not hit a boy, not for any reason, because he will get into trouble. I feel relatively certain he wouldn't hit another child in anger, but if everyone is going around tapping one another's behind, the possibility exists that he will join in. He is 7.

That said, Randy Castro had a history of comments, too. I am NOT blaming him, nor am I excusing him. I simply cannot imagine my 7yo knowing the stuff that Randy knew. Randy's parents had obviously not talked with their son, an absolutely must in this day and age. I say obviously because he had been called on for other (minor) transgressions. How many do you have to have before your parents say "watch out!!?"

Posted by: Andrea | April 4, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Really I am more shocked that the focus of this story has been so much on the boy - very little has been said about the girl (who if you believe the boys story basically spends recess with boys running up and slapping her on backside). That is way more disturbing then the boy getting talked to by some cops.

And also I don't see what the big deal is about calling the police - maybe the kid is young and doesn't know what he's doing but really I certainly don't think its bad to have a school policy that includes police involvement. If this kid was in 3rd grade I would have thought it was totally appropriate...I just don't see what the big deal is - so what, they called the police? unfortunately thats probably pretty common in schools these days and the kid had been in trouble for a similar thing before so don't start with all the oh the parents could have handled it because they didn't.

Posted by: ballgame | April 4, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Ballgame, you don't see the big deal about calling the police on a 7-year old? Really? You don't think that child is going to be permanently scarred from this experience? Do you really believe that he acted in a sexual way?

And you also seem to be implying that the girl in the story acted in a sexual way. Or am I reading this incorrectly?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 4, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Andrea, don't forget that there can be sexual harassment between two boys -- what if your son or one of his friends decided to take a swat at another boy's genitals? Is that sexual harassment?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 4, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Just an update on the article about the young girl with cancer from Nebraska, Jayci Yeager. Her father, Jason Yeager, was incarcerated for a minor drug charge, and eligible for release to a halfway house in August of this year. Jason was granted a furlough and was brought by prison officials to see Jayci near the end of March. He was allowed to stay with Jayci for about 45 minutes, at which time a news crew was spotted setting up outside the hospital where Jayci was. Jason was immediately taken back to prison. Jayci lost her battle with brain cancer on March 28th, and Jason was allowed to attend the funeral.

I'm originally from Nebraska, and although I don't know anyone from this sad tale, I have a daughter of my own, and followed this story closely. I can't even begin to imagine the pain this family has gone through, and was glad to see that Jayci was able to be with her father one last time. If you want to read more on this, the Lincoln NE newspaper website is www.journalstar.com, just search for "Jayci" and the whole situation, including the mandatory minimum sentencing issues that caused this tragic tale to happen.

Posted by: OrganicGal | April 4, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

My daughter's school is all girl. They realize that girls tend to be touchy-feely. The girls sit on each other, hug, kiss on the cheek, and hold hands constantly. They love each other. The main rule for invasion of personal space is that both parties consent. If one girl wants to be left alone and others sit on her, etc. they will be reprimanded. But I seriously doubt it will be any worse than a conversation with the teacher in the hallway (at least in the lower division).

Posted by: 21117 | April 4, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

In response to the posting's question - I'd pull him out of the school. I'd homeschool him if I couldn't afford private (although there are scholarships that I would try for). One limitation with big school systems (and I attended Fairfax county all my life) is that it's such a big beaurocracy that policies come from the top down - far away from the playground with the hitting.

If you read some of those articles, the principal felt obligated to respond as she did - calling in the police.

A smaller school system - or individual school would have the ability to distinguish between petty, brat behavior and intimidating sexual harrassment. It's sort of that zero tolerance issue, where a loftly goal - eliminating drug use in school - resulted in students suspended for carrying an aspirin in their backpacks.

Sounds like

Posted by: Amelia | April 4, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX,

I really don't see the big deal - the kid didn't get arrested - they aren't going to register the kid as a sex offender - so the cops came - big deal...schools call the cops all the time these days and I'm sure it wasn't the first time they kids have seen them at the school. The school is the one putting the tag on him (which they'll remove). and permanently scarred? I seriously doubt that - from one encounter that lasted maybe an hour? He probably won't even remember it - shoot I couldn't tell you five things that happened to me when I was seven.

And as for the girl, what I was trying to say was that it seemed she was being victimized by the boys in the class and it doesn't seem like anything is being done about it...if I were the teacher I would be more concerned with the the girl being "scarred" then the boy.

Posted by: ballgame | April 4, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I assure you he will remember it. Yes, permanently scarred -- he was afraid he was going to jail. The girl's mother isn't concerned about what happened, so she mustn't be too affected.

It is a travesty that as a society we are assuming such young children are acting with sexual intent. What happened to time out, detention, staying inside from recess as a punishment? The police? Please. Don't they have dangerous criminals to deal with?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 4, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

A trip to the school principal would probably have been sufficient to teach this boy the lesson. But, as Ballgame pointed out, the girl was facing other boys' improper conduct as well, and the principal may have been trying to (indirectly) deter those boys through general scare tactics. And it's better that these boys learn what is socially acceptable at this young age rather than in high school, where a reported incident might really affect their chances for college and might even get them arrested. If this had happened in high school, we'd all be wondering how the boys got to that age without learning that such behavior is completely unacceptable (even if it is too common).

And, yes, I agree with Ballgame, I'm more concerned about protecting the little girl being harrassed (sexually or otherwise) than protecting the harrassers' feelings. Even (especially?) young children need to understand that you don't touch others w/o their permission.

Posted by: DHI | April 4, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

WMX,

I definitely don't think there was anything sexual about it - I didn't mean that - what I meant is the school policy in and of itself is probably pretty standard these days - and as far as time outs and things like that, wasn't the kid already suspended earlier in the year for calling a kid gay and trying to get two girls to kiss in front of him? I don't think this had anything to do with sexual intent either, but its LEARNED behavior...just like teaching your kids to eat healthy at a young age makes them eat healthy when they are older - patterns of learned behavior. It appears as though this kid is being exposed to something that he shouldn't.

Also I just can't imagine the kid won't ever get over this - actually if he's scarred by anything it will be from his mom calling the paper and getting a story to run with a big picture of him and the caption so and so spanked a classmate...

Posted by: ballgame | April 4, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

And how do you think the police officers felt about this one?

Having several relatives who are law enforcement officers, I know that they work *very* hard to win the trust of children. They want young children to know that if they're ever lost or in trouble they can safely go to the nearest police officer, who will take good care of them.

Now, they've got a seven year old kid who knows that police officers can take you to jail, can lock you up, can do mean things to you. They can and will punish you. So that's a kid - and his friends - who has learned to be afraid of police officers; who might not turn to police if he's lost or being attacked or ...

I'm guessing that the police weren't real happy about this one, at all.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 4, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I am a teacher and I have to say, many younger students have knowledge we would rather they not have.
The fact is, Randy's fear of going to jail is a valid and appropriate one. He needs to learn that he may not touch others in that way if they don't like it. There will be a consequence for it. Also, please remember that children of his age tend to be very literal-minded and right-wrong oriented. Seven year olds would not think, "Gee I wonder if I will get a developmentally appropriate punishment for this action." They think, "I wonder if I'll go to jail if I do something bad." Completely normal response from him.

Posted by: awb | April 4, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm with WorkingMomX on this. To me, the issue isn't whether the boy will be scarred for life, because that implies that if he's not, then what happened was ok. It wasn't.

I do agree with ballgame -- the lack of concern for the girl is striking. But unfortunately, the school itself caused that: by overreacting -- by characterizing something non-sexual as sexual harassment, and by calling in the police -- they turned the boy into the "victim," and themselves into laughingstocks of PC-ness. The actual victim here -- the girl -- gets lost in the shuffle.

The school got it completely wrong: this wasn't sexual, it was the precursor to basic bullying behavior. It doesn't really matter whether they smacked her on the butt or in the face; the fundamental problem is that a couple of boys thought it would be fun to hit a girl at recess. Yes, typical for 6-yr-olds, but also something that the school needs to stop. The boys should rightfully have been called on the carpet -- a trip to the principal's office, a call home, some classroom discussion, and maybe some detention if the circumstances warrant it. Then we'd have a great story on how a school reacted appropriately to nip potential bullying in the bud, instead of turning the whole situation into yet another easily-dismissed example of uber-PC-ness.

Posted by: Laura | April 4, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

This kid is clearly being exposed to things at home that aren't healthy. This is squarely the parents' fault for allowing this to happen. Parents need to remember that their kids are little representatives of the adults in the family; when the kids misbehave, we should always ask what is going on in that household that led to the child's behavior. I've read that some schooling is moving slowly online with parental guidance. Perhaps this will reduce incidents like this and make the connection between parenting and child behavior clearer.

Posted by: dmt | April 4, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't sexual harassment indicate that someone has power over another person (job, money, place to live - something?) and they are using less than appropriate means to lord that over the other?

When did we change the meaning? As in, someone who is SEVEN cannot sexually harass. He can bully, he can be inappropriate, he can make inappropriate sexual advances or show inappropriate sexual behavior (perhaps, he's SEVEN) - but he couldn't - by the original definition - sexually harass.

Or am I completely crazy?

Posted by: atlmom | April 4, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

atlmom, no, I don't think you're completely crazy -- but then again, consider who's saying that. :-) This is part of my problem here: when you expand a term like "sexual harassment" to include little kids doing stupid stuff, the term loses its meaning where it really counts. Or to paraphrase someone else, when everything is sexual harassment, nothing is.

Posted by: Laura | April 4, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Maybe this is just my oversensitivity as a result of everything else that's happening in PWC and the fact that I'm hispanic, but I can't help but wonder if the police were called because the boy was Hispanic and they "suspected" he may be here illegally. After all, that is the policy there these days, and the article didn't explain WHY the police were called except that it was a "confusion" or something like that.

Posted by: Gomez | April 4, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"when the kids misbehave, we should always ask what is going on in that household that led to the child's behavior."

Or what is going on at school that led to the child's behavior--or on the playground, or the bus, or anywhere else. In the case at hand, we are told that many boys hit this girl on the behind. If the culture at school is that it is acceptable to hit this girl on the behind, I don't find it surprising that a 7 year old took part in the action.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I think the whole thing is ridulous. But on the positive side, despite this "slap" on his record, this boy will be able to write one heck of a college-entrance essay.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 4, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Hate to say it, but hire a lawyer, bureacrats like that can't be reasoned with. You have to hit them where it hurts to get their attention. You can't reason with unreasonable, incompetent people like the school administrators in this case.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Gomez | April 4, 2008 11:05 AM


A shout out from the PC Victimhood crowd huh? Please give it a rest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

To anon at 11:29 AM:

Not really a victimhood thing, I just think it's worth wondering. It's happened at other schools around the country, and that is the PWC policy..

Posted by: Gomez | April 4, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps this child has watched football on TV...a lot of condoned butt slapping there....

They just banned cheek kissing in my daughter's 60% hispanic school...for many kids, girls and boys, saying high with a cheek brush and air kiss is culturally appropriate. Indeed, many of these same girls kiss me hello and goodbye when they come to my home and I expect my children to greet Spanish speaking visitors this way.

I think they do need to realize that the rest of the world might not welcome this. Nothing is more clear when one goes for the air kiss and the other person backs up. But they should not be punished if they do it with their friends and no one says no. The kids know who does and who does not to do this with...just like the boys with the urban handshakes know who they will do this little macho act with them...handshakes are not banned..just the air kissing. Also, many hispanic girls hold each others arms and cling to each other when they talk and whisper...there is talk of banning this also..

Posted by: samclare | April 4, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: samclare | April 4, 2008 11:40 AM

sorry this isn't mexico, it's the US. Whether you are white black, asian hispanic, the rules apply evenly. No opt out for special groups.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

... so it's still okay for white girls to hold each others arms and cling to each other when they talk and whisper

I'm happy

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

to anon @ 11:44 - did you ever watch a bunch of European-American high school girls say goodbye to each other? Banning kissing and hugging? You gotta be kidding - they'd all be expelled from school.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 4, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so, 11:44, "the rules apply evenly" -- but why is it the rule? Seems to me that the whole point of something like a "no kissing" policy is to prevent unwanted sexual behavior. So if the behavior is neither unwanted nor sexual, why should it be banned?

Personally, I am far more bothered by a one-size-fits-none approach to life than I am by the thought of girls linking arms or air-kissing each other.

Posted by: Laura | April 4, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I guess my only thing is that, while "Sexual Harassment" may not be the appropriate label, the kid obviously has some behavioral issues. Issues that go beyond "normal" 7 y.o.'s. THe article talks of other comments and such that he has made.

I don't know if the police were necessary. But, addressing his behavior immediately and appropriately is in order. As is a long discussion with the parents.

Posted by: Jen | April 4, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Raise your hand if you think that Randy should get a spanking to teach him a lesson!

I think calling the police was a gross misuse of public resources.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 4, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

If he'd been my son, when my own sons were 7, I'm sure I would have thought this was all blown out of proportion. A bunch of you-know-what.

With the perspective of a few years, and some sons who had trouble staying out of fights (with boys) in middle school, I'd now say that this is probably the right time to become concerned and force this child and his parents into some "re-education" on proper behavior.

I think calling the police was overkill - but sometimes calling in the police for a little social-work-in-a-blue-uniform is the way to make your point. I've had those guys in brown uniforms (I live in MoCo) at my door, and I will say that it ups the urgency of putting an end to your kids undesirable behavior!

Kids need to not hit other kids. It seems trivial, but it never has a good outcome. It only gets worse as they get older.

I don't know about the sexual aspect of it. A 7 y/o shouldn't be into that stuff, if he was then all the better reason to force the family to get some helps. In my experience it's about small children being socialized to not use force on other kids of whatever sex them are.

Posted by: RoseG | April 4, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"The girl's mother isn't concerned about what happened, so she mustn't be too affected."

Huh? A + B does not equal C. All we know is that the girl's mother isn't concerned. Whether or not the girl was affected remains to be seen. As we learn here every day, lots of parents are out to lunch.

Posted by: mn.188 | April 4, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

While kids that age might not understand their behavior is what we call "sexual"- they do know that it's "different." That's part of why they touch those parts and play those games!

Of course the child should be taught appropriate social behavior, children should also be taught to say no and report behavior early (unfortunately as we've seen, most adults take a "learn to deal on your own" or "don't tattle" approach).

At that age I think it really needs to be a case by case basis. My troubles in school only REALLY started when I was 8 and tried to kiss the winner of a race we had. I had no idea that kiss = sexual, I simply knew kissing was something funny and sweet to do after a race. By the end of the day that day, the rest of the class (other 7 and 8 yos) were asking if I was a "homo" and being all sorts of nasty to me. I myself had no clue what was going on, other than it made me feel like crap.

Oddly enough in that situation, I don't think my behavior was inappropriate, and theirs was.

Posted by: Liz D | April 4, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

MN -- one hopes that if the child was feeling victimized, her mother would know this and react accordingly. The Post's article states that she is unhappy that this matter has gotten so out of control and feels the boy has been treated unfairly.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 4, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Nip it in the bud!

Posted by: Barney Fife | April 4, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

This stuff is so far outside the norm of normal childhood play that I'm not surprised they did something.

There were kids in my neighborhood 30 years ago who knew all about this stuff and I didn't know it was a problem until years later when their stepfather was arrested.

Kids learn this stuff from someplace and it's likely they've been exposed to some kind of abuse, mild or serious, if they're bringing it to the playground. At least that's what sadly happened where I lived.

Posted by: DCer | April 4, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Calling the police does seem ridiculous, but a trip to the principal's office and a couple of detentions would have been entirely appropriate. I guess I'm not sure why law enforcement had to step in; isn't the school capable of disciplining kids?

I am one of those people who can remember being "harrassed" by a boy as a child. I think the fact that I was 6 yet remember it clear as day says something. Said boy grabbed me in an obviously inappropriate manner in front of the entire class and teacher - I don't feel like going into more detail that that. The teacher yelled at him and that was it. He was clearly a messed up kid. Should they have called the cops? No. Was a stern lecture by an authority figure in order? Yes.

No doubt just as school figures way overreacted in this case, there are many, many other schools where authority figures underreact.

Posted by: JO | April 7, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

As the mother of a daughter all I can say that if more parents of boys addressed proper behavior this would not happen. Boys are constantly coddled and excused with "That's just how boys are..."
That doesn't fly anymore. I am upset the the focus seems to be on the boy, what about the girl? 1 in 4 girls are sexual assaulted. A smack on the butt my not effect me the way it effects someone else. A call to the police will ensure that this kid learns boundaries fast.

These are not the little babies that everyone claims. Have you people been to an elementary school recently? Some of these kids are as foul mouthed as teenagers.

Posted by: glt79 | April 7, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"wburn42167: What garbage! The principal should be disciplined for calling the police. Children at that age are not fully aware of sexuality. This is political correctness and bias against boys gone awry."

I strongly agree with wburn42167. In addition, are the children able to have sex? "Sexual harrassment"??? Think! Can't the principal educate/discipline the young child? How does the principal run his/her school, if he/she cannot handle the simple situation like this?

Posted by: Ty | April 8, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company