Monday, December 16, 2013

Tooting My Horn: Kissing in Elementary School

Have you heard the story of a six-year-old girl who got suspended from school for sitting too close to a boy at the lunch table? Apparently, Sally had a crush on six-year-old Billie (not their real
names). When the lunch bell rang she would rush to buy her meal so she could sit next to him at the
table. "Hi, Billie," she kept saying, trying to get his attention, it was reported. Billie told her to go away and tried his best to ignore her, but Sally was not about to give up. Every day was the same and Billie was miserable.

Word finally reached Billie's mom that Sally was badgering her son to the point of starvation. Apparently, he was coming home ravenous, having left most of his lunch at the table uneaten. Mom marched into the principle's office the next day and had the girl suspended.

TRUE STORY? YES AND NO.

I was Sally in this story, attending a grade school in Tacoma (WA) many years ago. I remember being so smitten with Tommy (his real name), I couldn't form a complete sentence without grinning and batting my baby brown eyes. Tommy was obviously uncomfortable, poor guy. He would move as far away on the lunch bench as possible. He usually ended up wedged between me and the kid on the other side. Did Mom, our teacher or the principle get involved? NO (thankful for that). Good old-fashioned peer pressure solved the problem. Tommy's big sister approached me one day, poked me hard in the chest, and said, "Leave my brother alone." It worked. Humiliated, I sulked away my lunch hour, vowing to never like another boy again . . . and come to think of it, I kept that vow until about the eighth grade (when the hormones kicked in).

So why am I telling you this story? I was reading in the newspaper recently that a six-year-old Colorado boy had been suspended two days from school for kissing a girl. The article said it was not just one kiss, but kissing that was repeated "over and over" (I assume over a period of days). Apparently, he was warned repeatedly to stop, but the kissing persisted and the school decided to suspend him. He now has a "sexual harassment infraction on his discipline record." (Associated Press, Dec.  12, 2013).

The article left me feeling kind of sick inside. I do not know what the real solution was, but suspension with a sexual harassment infraction on his record just feels wrong. The boy is six-years-old!! How will this infraction impact him growing up? How will his family and friends treat him hence forth? I suspect neither family (or the school) feels good right now, and it is especially sad at Christmastime. I hope there is a happy ending to this story. I hope there is an outpouring of love and forgiveness for all involved. What do you think?

Dec 18....
Here are some links with more information. I was relieved to find out the charges were changed to "misconduct!" I was also relieved to find out his mom was very upset with the first charge and went to bat for her son. A parent was very much involved in this case. You can read the article and listen to her reaction in the video below. Her son is also interviewed. I urge you to listen . . .

 http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/six-year-old_boys_kiss_labeled_sexual_harassment_gets_him_suspended_from_school.html

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/12/11/colorado-school-district-flooded-with-calls-after-6-year-old-suspension-over/
 
Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl

14 comments:

  1. If he was much larger than she, and if he overpowered her, and she could not fend him off, I can see where this punishment needed to happen. The article said that he had been told repeatedly to stop, and he didn’t. Unlike in your case, there was no big brother, sister or peer to tell him to “knock it off.”

    I was once assaulted repeatedly, though not via kissing, by a little boy in third grade. It made me a nervous wreck and sick to my stomach whenever I went to school. If only something could’ve been done to stop him from getting under the table and scratching my bare legs with a sharp pencil. An assault infarction on his record, and suspension, would’ve been wonderful. But we were in Utah, and he was “the Bishop’s son,” and so “nothing could be done about it," according to my teacher.

    So, coming from the victim’s side, as I was when young, this doesn’t seem like such a bad punishment for the little boy. *Maybe* he will have learned his lesson, that “no” means no.

    Most boys will need to learn this at some point, due to the male proclivity to try to get whatever they can from a girl. This boy learned it (hopefully) at a younger age than most.

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    1. Hi Cathy. Thank you for your very insightful comments and sorry to dredge up such awful memories. What's really sad in your case is that your teacher did not understand how badly you needed help, and apparently was more concerned about her status with her church! Certainly if a child is harming another child or deliberately disobeying a teacher, there needs to be some form of discipline. What bothers me most about the six-year old in question is the handling of the problem. A "sexual harassment infraction" is a charge commonly used against adults in an adult world. I struggle with this adult labeling being used against a child in his formative years. I worry that this will only escalate the problem. I would have felt a whole lot better if they had called it "mischievious conduct" or even "bullying." One of my children got in trouble once for writing a vicious, hurtful letter to another student who was not very popular. Long and short of it, I called and apologized to the mother, and had my child write a long letter of apology. It was a very effective method! Not to make light of what happend to you or the kid in Colorado, I just think this boy should have been treated like a six year old, and not a 60 year old man on charges for sexual assault, etc.

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  2. Adorable story :) And yeah, I don't feel good about giving a sexual harassment infraction to a six year old either. That's just...wrong.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, With Joy)

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Sarah. As you can see from Cathy's and my comments above, this is a complicated issue. I suspect there are a lot of people thinking about this right now.

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  3. It seems a little extreme to pin a sexual harassment charge on a six-year-old! I feel for the kid! I hope he doesn't end up as a grown up with problems because of it.

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  4. Hi Sherry. Thanks for stopping by. I totally agree!

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  5. We don't know whats going on this little boy mind it could be poppy love or a beginning of a monster.
    And where the parents in this story? Are we losing our morals and ethics in how to deal with children.
    Best hope for this boy.

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    1. Hi Bob! I have to agree.It could go either way with this little boy. My heart goes out to all involved. I hope he has the right people in his life, those who can be moral compasses and love him unconditionally.

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  6. We need to go back to the day and age when it was okay to slug your bullies. All it takes is one well-planted punch, and a new boundary has been established. Non verbal. Non negotiable. I'm not a fan of violence to solve problems, but especially in cases of harassment, one kid standing up for themselves should be acceptable.

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  7. Good point, Crystal. This whole issue of bullying is a topic unto itself. I don't know why it's harder today than when I was in school. It seemed more black and white then, but hindsight is always rosier than it actually was, so....I'm trying to keep the right perspective. Perhaps the more this little boy's plight is discussed, word will get out, and more people will step up to help, love, and support him as the case may be. If this is the beginning of a 'monster' as Bob points out, then I hope help is there too. Tough, tough for all involved.

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  8. Following what Crystal and Bob said, when my nephew was 5 he and a girl got in trouble for "fighting" at school--he kissed her and she slugged him. He was imitating what he'd seen adults do when they like each other. Parents were called and when my brother heard what happened, my nephew was instructed on proper behavior with a night of no DS or TV to think about what he'd done. No suspensions and the behavior ceased. They stayed friends and seven years later we laugh about it. So, for the above story, it's hard to think a six year old really has malicious intentions, but as with most stories, we only get the media spin. In working for 20 years with kids, when the school sends these kids to me for psych evaluations most of the time it's a misunderstanding, not a disturbed child. The disturbed ones are scary, though. I agree with Crystal that kids should be able to stand up for themselves. Bullying is such a problem, and the kids often have no choice but to fight back, verbally or physically. Once again, you have to ask, where are the parents in these cases?

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  9. Hi Bethie. It is so true the media can put everything out of perspective, but this story did make the news, so I have to assume it was considered pretty outrageous by some. Interesting what happened to your nephew and that everyone can laugh about it today. It also makes me wonder why the Colorado parents couldn't work out a better solution. Perhaps the problem lies there, as you (and Bob) suggest. I also wonder why bullying is such a problem today. Is it the handling of bullying that's a problem or has it actually increased? I'm glad in your experience that most of these kids are NOT disturbed. Thanks for adding another facet to this discussion!

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  10. Great post Sharon, and some good discussion as a result. I worry that the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing including PDAs (either wanted or not) is affecting younger and younger children. I don't have enough information on this particular case, but I agree the punishment "seems" harsh, and I always wonder about the parents.

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  11. Hi DA. I went online to find more information. The school changed the 'sexual harassment' label to 'misconduct'. SO relieved to hear this. Check out the links below for the full story. Thanks for visiting!

    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/six-year-old_boys_kiss_labeled_sexual_harassment_gets_him_suspended_from_school.html

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/12/11/colorado-school-district-flooded-with-calls-after-6-year-old-suspension-over/

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