I hate to interrupt the Christmas cheer, but there are two cases of absolute craziness run amok, mixed with lunacy, layered with insanity, shaken with just plain ridiculousness and it is the clear duty of normal people everywhere to take a minute, hear about these cases, shake your head in disgust, imagine your child in a similar situation, then yell, "STOP!!!!!!!"
In Boston, a first grader was being choked. He fought back and ended up punching his assailant in the groin. He--the one who was choked--is now being charged with sexual assault (read the article here. Note: I am going on the assumption that the story is accurate). If this charge holds, then when he turns 18, his name will be placed on the registry and for the rest of his life, he will be listed as a sex offender. Every time he applies for a job, an apartment--boom. There it is. He won't be able to attend his children's basketball games, concerts or parent teacher conferences.
This, dear readers, is madness. It is madness.
I don't advocate kicking anyone in the groin. But in self defense? That's a pretty common technique. It's also something that happens with amazing regularity any time boys tussle. So now it's a sex offense? If this is upheld--if this boy becomes a sex offender for this, then the designation ceases to have any real meaning.
Think of anytime you have ever had any kind of accidental or inadvertent contact with someone--you slipped and bumped into them, or something similar. My goodness, we could all be charged with this crime.
These administrators need to be called out on this. We have got to stand up and start making noise and letting people know that this is not the way a free, healthy society works.
Another story: a 4th grader in North Carolina called his teacher, "cute." The principal suspended him for sexual harassment. The school district investigated and found that the principal was wrong. Correctly so, in my opinion.
So he was fired. 44 years. Gone. Poof! Read the story here. Ok, he wasn't fired. He "resigned." But we know what that means.
He was wrong--gravely, seriously, ridiculously wrong in my judgement. He should have been written up, warned, and told to apologize.
But to be fired, just like that? I don't know--but I am going to guess, based on 25 years working schools, that the district had a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. I'll bet you the principal has been to workshops over the years where he was told that it was his duty to report this and brook no excuses, but to be firm and so forth. I'll bet a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper on this one.
We have a system that is lurching out of control. Common sense has vanished and we rely on policies and procedures--all of which are drawn up in order to provide maximum cover from lawsuits. We don't talk about right and wrong and moral and immoral (except as labels for political policies we don't like). Instead, we have rules and regulations, which can be useful tools but terrible masters.
We have lost perspective, lost all sense of proportion. Little boys who fight should apologize, maybe be grounded, go to detention, stay after school. Not labelled as sex criminals--for the rest of their lives!
Boys who have crushes on their teacher and call them cute should be taught about propriety, good manners, and time and place. But that's not sexual harassment. If it is, then the term means nothing.
Principals who make miscalculations (acting out of deference to school policy and fears of lawsuits) should be reprimanded, corrected, and taught. Not fired.
I'm not saying that the initial actions were right. Groin kicking is bad. Calling a teacher cute is not perhaps prudent or appropriate (although, after teaching in NYC, I've been called far worse. I've actually been called far worse more recently by parents).
All of these stories have one thing in common: a small infraction that was dealt with in a grotesquely exaggerated, totally inappropriate way. We are using fire hoses to extinguish birthday candles.
I maintain that this is the other side of the coin with the Penn State scandal. When you move beyond right and wrong, and deal with policies and procedures and legalities only, you risk missing true evil while responding manically to very trivial, prosaic, minor problems.
Seriously. This has got to stop. And regular people have to do that. We have to push back against this kind of stuff. It might be your kid next. Or you.
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