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Can A Second-Grader Be A "Sexual Harasser"?

Illustration for article titled Can A Second-Grader Be A Sexual Harasser?

Randy Castro is seven years old, and is on record at his Woodbridge, Virginia elementary school as being a sexual harasser. According to the Washington Post, last year, when Randy was 6, he smacked a female classmate on the bottom during recess. The girl told the teacher and Randy was sent to the principal. Ted Feinberg, assistant director of the National Association of School Psychologists, says that to label somebody a sexual harasser at 6 "doesn't make sense to me." In March, two Colorado 5-year-olds were "investigated" for sexual harassment because they were caught kissing at school. And the Post reports that last year, the Virginia Department of Education suspended 255 elementary school students for offensive sexual touching. (In Maryland, 166 elementary school children were suspended for sexual harassment — including three preschoolers.) And sometimes the cops are involved.

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The laws in Virgina, Maryland and Washington, D.C. consider sexual offenses by schoolchildren to be "improper physical contact against a student that is offensive, undesirable, and/or unwanted as determined by the victim." There's no debate that unwanted touching is an offense. But the schools are enforcing a zero-tolerance policy that involves the authorities: The police were contacted after Randy Castro's playground spank. (Since the episode in November, Randy has been calling himself a "bad boy," his mother says.) The girl's mother, Margarita DeLeon, was also contacted by the school, and says her daughter admitted that she didn't like being hit but quickly forgot about it. "[Randy] didn't mean anything by it. I'm upset with the school," DeLeon says.

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It would be easy to blame hip-hop videos, Bratz and reality TV for these kids turning into "sexual harassers." But isn't exploring boundaries and figuring out what's a "no-no" just something kids do? (Whom among us never touched a classmate or played doctor?) Human development is about testing, learning, trying things out. Says psychologist Ted Feinberg: "Kids can be exploratory in behavior, they can mimic what they see on TV." Does that mean that they should have the "sexual harasser" label forever in their school files?

For Little Children, Grown-Up Labels As Sexual Harassers, Harassment Under the Law [Washington Post]
Earlier: Two Colorado 5-Year-Olds "Investigated" For Sexual Harassment

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DISCUSSION

delicatedisarray
delicatedisarray

I use to work at a day care. On the playground there was one of those plastic play house things. Well... one day I had one of the little girls come running and crying out to me to tell me that one of the little boys had just showered her his "dilly." So, I had to go get the little boy and tell him that was inappropriate and all that jazz when he told me he did it because he wanted to see the girls "titties" and touch their "flowers." Now, five and six year olds don't come up with this on their own. They learn it from their parents, or in this little boys case his moms boyfriend (who was one of the nastiest men I had ever mer). At a young age children need to be taught what is right and what is wrong, sadly many aren't learning those lessons.