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December 12, 2013

Today in "War On Whatever" Hysteria

A 6 year old boy kisses a little girl on the cheek during school and then, a few weeks later, kisses her on the hand during class. According to the girl's mother, the girl didn't welcome the attention and the boy had been warned by school officials not to do it again. Naturally, he did it again.

We are told by the boy's mother that the little girl liked it. How does she know this? Did she actually talk to the girl or her parents? Or are we taking the word of a 6 year old boy who was already in trouble? Or perhaps a mother, defending her 6 year old boy who is already in trouble?

Somehow the little girl's mother found out about the first kissing incident before the second kiss - the one that got our hero in trouble - took place. Why, if she truly didn't mind being kissed, would a little girl come home and tell her Mom?

Ownbey stated there originally were two boys who had "kept her (daughter) from playing with other kids and fought with each other."

"After they got in trouble, one boy stopped but the other boy apparently didn't get it," she stated. "I had to put restrictions on her about which she was allowed to be around at school. I've had to coach her about what to do when you don't want someone touching you, but they won't stop."

Lincoln Principal Tammy DeWolfe said Tuesday that any time a misbehavior or a violation of school conduct is reported to a teacher or a principal, she moves forward with an investigation to gather accurate information about what really happened.

"Then we continue to work with the families," she said. "Our goal is to ultimately get that inappropriate behaviors to stop."

She said the school would "never suspend a student for one minor little violation," adding that typically there are things that build up to suspension level where the behaviors have not changed over time and/or they continue.

It sounds like there's a bit more to this story than we were initially told, but none of us really knows exactly what happened. Normally, this might be enough to keep the blogosphere from going into orbit around Planet Eleventy. But we live in the age of outrage, where neither incomplete information nor obviously one sided coverage shall keep us from our appointed rants.

The school responded by placing a complaint of sexual harassment on a 6 year old boy's record. Clearly, this was a silly overreaction - one that has since been rectified by the school. Not to be upstaged by the silly overreactions that had already taken place, this week's tempest in a teapot somehow morphed into a Ginormous War on Little Boys!,
complete with "Free the Victim!" taglines and thinly supported accusations that the Obama administration was Somehow To Blame For All This. Because people never do anything stupid without direct orders from the White House. All this fulmination (plus a link from Glenn Reynolds) reminded us of an incandescently stupid article that made our head explode the other day:

Liberals want to stop men from checking out women

In the progressive future, men will not be able to look at women’s bodies because that is a terrible thing to do — and science says so.

...Ladies, how are you going to feel when the progressives prohibit men from paying you a compliment on your walk home from the bar? You know there’s always one friend of yours who waited all night for that.

Unexplained in all of this is exactly how liberals are going to criminalize compliment-paying and breast ogling, but no matter. The point is to get really, really angry and to believe that your identity group is being persecuted much more than all the other identity groups who believe they are being persecuted.

Hey, if it works for Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Amanda Marcotte, Barack Obama, et al, it must be a good idea.

So in keeping with the spirit of the times, allow Editorial Staff to throw just a bit more gasoline on the fire by agreeing with that notorious man-and-boy-hater, Ann Althouse: (what other motive could she have for not jumping on the bandwagon?)

I agree that someone that young should not be labeled with an offense that contains the word "sexual." (The school district, barraged with criticism, has relabeled his offense "misconduct.") And I would locate the issue of suspending him within the larger problem of the "zero tolerance" approach.

...By the boy's report, it happened "during class, yeah": "We were doing reading group and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand." That isn't acceptable in-class behavior! The school should forbid that. I don't understand saying it's fine for boys and girls who like each other to freely express that affection with hand kissing during class. How about a little support for the school teachers who expect discipline during their lessons? You're not allowed to whisper back and forth or pass notes either. This is basic classroom respect. Have we all forgotten?

Yes, we have. We've lost the ability to see people as individuals and not as members of Oppressed Groups Whose Suffering Is Deeply Symbolic Of Some Larger Social Issue (maybe a war!). We've also lost the ability to deal with issues and individuals separately and dispassionately.

And it's a damned shame.


Posted by Cassandra at December 12, 2013 03:53 PM

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Comments

Well, also as many of Althouses commentors pointed out, the problem was not that the boy was disciplined. It was that they went nuclear on a 6 year old.

Even the "rectification" is heavy handed. And not likely to be successful.

"This'll go on your record!" is not exactly a threat to a 6 year old.

Even for a second or third or fourth offense, park his butt in the hall. Make him write "I will not kiss classmates" 25/50/100 times during recess. Make him eat his lunch in the classroom away from his friends. Paddle his butt.

At 36 I don't think I'm that old, but maybe I am. Teachers used to be able to do that kind of thing routinely without turning it into a big production.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 12, 2013 06:21 PM

Teachers used to suspend kids without it turning into a civil rights case or making the evening news and then going viral on the Internet and becoming Symbolic of... whatever, instead of just another stupid human story :p

Althouse stipulated up front that she thought both the suspension and the sexual harassment thing were an overreaction. And so is all the idiotic WAR ON MEN blather.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 12, 2013 06:56 PM

Ahh, sweet Agnus. My first girl friend. I used to carry her books home from school. Second grade. I don't think I ever kissed her. Actually, I don't remember her at all, my memories are of my Mom talking about how cute we were together. There may be pictures, but I don't have them.


Really? Sexual harassment?


Yes, inappropriate behavior. Totally inappropriate response. I suppose something "had to be done", but this wasn't it. I'm more inclined to blame the mother of the girl, who should have taught her daughter how to shut the offender down. Maybe he's a bully (or bullied.) Since there were two miscreants, they may have been daring each other.


School has changed. When I was a kid, if I got in trouble with a teacher, I was then in trouble with the principal (who was not my pal), and on the way home I'd hear about it from the neighbors, and when I did get home, I'd be in trouble with Mom, and when Dad got home there would be more trouble. A kid had no friends in the adult world. None.

Posted by: htom at December 12, 2013 07:32 PM

In the 1st grade, I had a huge crush on a boy named Thomas. I think he liked me, too, because we always ended up as dancing partners in phys ed (God help us, they taught us to square dance).

A year or two later, it was a red headed boy named (I kid you not) Ronald Reagan. His mother wore blue and green eye shadow and cat's eye eyeliner and I thought she was exotic. He used to carry my books home from school.

But neither one of them tried to kiss me. Especially in school!

Flash forward to our 2nd or 3rd home in Pensacola, FL. I had a 2-3 year old boy and one in the oven. We had 3 or 4 neighborhood kids in the house playing in my son's room and something happened. I still can't remember what it was, but I sent the oldest boy (who had just turned 6) home for some reason. Later I was discussing the incident with my neighbor and she told me that she had caught this 6 year old trying to have sex with her 3 year old daughter.

For real. Not playing doctor, which is normal, or "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", which I can actually remember doing as a small child simply out of curiosity (it was no more than that), but no kidding intercourse. I assume it was not successful b/c the kid would hopefully have lacked the capacity.

The world you and I grew up in is not the same as the world our kids and grand kids are growing up in, and we can no longer assume that all children are innocent. And schools have to deal with all of this.

Kids see things that they just shouldn't see these days and monkey see, monkey do.

I have a hard time with the idea of suspending 6 year olds (and apparently this kid had ALREADY been suspended once! At 6!), but then I remember the stories my daughter in law told me about teaching second grade to children who just plain wouldn't mind or listen b/c no one ever made them do that at home. There were no consequences, and she wasn't allowed to touch the little darlings even if they hit or bit other kids.

So I guess I look at things in that light. I don't assume as much as I used to years ago.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 12, 2013 08:01 PM

"I had a 2-3 year old boy and one in the oven."

All this time I thought that story was one of Grimm's fairy tales. Did you have a house made of candy, too?

Posted by: Snarkammando at December 12, 2013 08:35 PM

He was delicious.

[burp!] :)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 12, 2013 08:44 PM

Evidently not from that burp.

Posted by: Snarkammando at December 12, 2013 09:05 PM

(Best laugh I've had this month, Cass!)

Posted by: htom at December 12, 2013 09:06 PM

:)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 13, 2013 08:13 AM

Teachers used to suspend kids without it turning into a civil rights case or making the evening news and then going viral on the Internet and becoming Symbolic of... whatever, instead of just another stupid human story :p

Again, maybe it's just my age, but suspensions were the nuclear option. Kids who got in knock-down-drag-out-fights were not suspended. Typically not even for a second offense. If this had been the girl's second bloody nose, we wouldn't be talking about this. "Johnny won't stop touching me" is a completely different class.

But the real problem is that this is not a "one bad apple" story. The problem is the existance of a policy governing "sexual harrasment" of elementary school kids. As you are fond of saying, these things don't pop up fully formed from the head of Zeus. In a political environment where "war on women" is a legitimate political tactic used by everyone up to and including POTUS, it doesn't seem like a stretch to think that the Dept of Education would threaten schools with funding. I agree that Obama isn't directly responsible. No order was given and it's doubtful that Obama has even ever talked to anyone in the DoE. But we do seem to be working in a governmental culture that seems overly eager to take care of those damn turnbulent priests.

And that is a very real problem.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 13, 2013 09:17 AM

Again, maybe it's just my age, but suspensions were the nuclear option. Kids who got in knock-down-drag-out-fights were not suspended. Typically not even for a second offense.

I think it must be your age. I lived all over the country growing up (we moved pretty much every year) and it was the norm to get suspended for fighting.

Things must have changed a whole lot - suspension wasn't any kind of nuclear option when I was in school. Kids were suspended for defiance and a whole host of other offenses.

I have a real problem with the idea that somehow kids are on their own in school. If they can't rely on teachers to stand up for civilized behavior, there's something very wrong. And I view the notion that schools are worried about having federal funding cut off with extreme skepticism.

I think we need to be careful about taking hyped stories (often with incomplete information) as indicative of some huge, widespread problem. I'm not automatically rejecting the theory, but it requires evidence to be regarded as established. Mere suspicion or statements that "it could be true" aren't evidence - they're feelings.

You're a statistician - you tell me: how many school children are there? Of these, what's the incidence of this kind of thing happening?

Bad things happen to girls too - just read feminist blogs. Read about Steubenville, where HS coaches have been brought up on charges of covering up a sickening attack on a female student.

These stories are a dime a dozen - I see them all the time. Girls have killed themselves over the abuse they've suffered and the schools couldn't care less. But you won't see any of these stories on Instapundit or conservative blogs, though, because they don't fit the preferred WAR ON MEN AND BOYS!!!11! narrative. It's one thing to rightly decry the current government culture.

It's another thing to demonstrate that this culture is driving the stories we're seeing or affecting schools nationwide. That's the missing piece. So while I have no problem with covering these stories (they should be covered!) I think a little balance (and skepticism where warranted) would be refreshing.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 13, 2013 10:39 AM

I lived all over the country growing up (we moved pretty much every year) and it was the norm to get suspended for fighting.

I was in a minor school fight as a senior and only got two days of in-school detention. So yeah, kicking a 6 year old out for bugging a classmate sounds like using a howitzer on a fly.

I get your point on numbers. I really do.

The problem is that this seems not to be the actions of individual adults acting badly. That, I can handle. This, and other's like it, are the results of groups of people setting forth the rules that declare that that bad behavior is in fact the approved future response. Teacher's not protecting students from bullying is bad. Teacher's required by policy to not protect students from bullying is worse.

And a different problem.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 13, 2013 12:05 PM

If we give primacy to treating people as individuals then we have to give primacy to individual responsibility and behavior. We have to recognize that a given person's own actions and choices are more important than what group they belong to and the history of how that group has been treated through history. We have to recognize that a given individual has agency and that eligibility for assistance given by the government to an individual should be a function of them and not their group membership.

It also means that the government employees overseeing the administration of assistance, or government services (e.g., education) should be trusted to use their own informed judgement - and be accountable for it - when dealing with individuals, and that no one person has the right to demand to be treated as another person has been simply because they share the same age, race, disability, etc., regardless of what they've done with their life.

None of that fits the narrative. None of that permits the expansion of government power into all phases of life, because it means that people HAVE choices and HAVE individual responsibility to make the right ones and that individuals, and not government, is the proper repository of choices and judgement and decision making.

Posted by: RonF at December 13, 2013 02:24 PM

"Kids who got in knock-down-drag-out-fights were not suspended. Typically not even for a second offense."

Physical reassessments of the pecking order in my old H.S. were not all that unusual. You could count on a few a year. You'd see a couple of guys confront each other and then the magic words would be spoken:

"I'll see you up on the hill!"

There was a hill at the very rear of the school property. Go down the back side (there was no fence) and you were off the school property. Word would spread through the school. Not that the teachers couldn't figure it out when 100 kids headed up the hill after school, but mysteriously they were never there when the festivities began.

There was a code. The two gladiators would come up separately with a small entourage to ensure that nothing went on before the summit of the hill was reached and that no one other than the two would directly participate. Punches only, no low blows. No weapons of any kind. Eventually a teacher would arrive, break it up and take the two into custody, but by then a winner and loser would have been established. The loser was accorded some status for at least being willing to enter the arena.

Punishment for the first couple of offenses would be detentions. It wouldn't be until a 3rd offense that suspension would be meted out.

But it's different now. The loser would worry about being punked out. Loss of face is unbearable. The risk of the loser retaliating with weaponry didn't exist then - they'd have been labelled as a coward and would have been shunned by all. Gangs then were social cliques, not for-profit organizations determined to protect their market at all costs. Kids saw themselves as members of a family, a church and a school community, all of which they were responsible to. Now kids are told that they are not responsible to anyone - society is responsible to them. So you can't let kids fight it out anymore, because the rules are out the window and the loser becomes more dangerous than the winner.

Posted by: RonF at December 13, 2013 02:40 PM

Later I was discussing the incident with my neighbor and she told me that she had caught this 6 year old trying to have sex with her 3 year old daughter.

For real. Not playing doctor, which is normal, or "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", which I can actually remember doing as a small child simply out of curiosity (it was no more than that), but no kidding intercourse. I assume it was not successful b/c the kid would hopefully have lacked the capacity.

The world you and I grew up in is not the same as the world our kids and grand kids are growing up in, and we can no longer assume that all children are innocent.

Honestly--if something like this happened around me, my first assumption would be that someone had been messing with the boy. Inappropriate sexual play (not just "playing doctor") is unfortunately not uncommon among childhood sexual abuse victims. And, sadly, sexual abuse of children is nothing new. (There have been incidents in my own family tree, as I recently found out, going back a couple generations.) The only thing that's different now, I think, is that we're more aware of it now and perhaps less likely to shame and stigmatize the victim. Just my two cents.

Posted by: colagirl at December 15, 2013 08:14 PM

Shoot, forgot italics. The first three paragraphs should all have been italicized, not just the first one. Long day.

Posted by: colagirl at December 15, 2013 08:15 PM

Honestly--if something like this happened around me, my first assumption would be that someone had been messing with the boy. Inappropriate sexual play (not just "playing doctor") is unfortunately not uncommon among childhood sexual abuse victims. And, sadly, sexual abuse of children is nothing new. (There have been incidents in my own family tree, as I recently found out, going back a couple generations.) The only thing that's different now, I think, is that we're more aware of it now and perhaps less likely to shame and stigmatize the victim. Just my two cents.

That's a good point, colagirl. FWIW, I didn't think less of the boy. I thought less of his mother (there was no father in the picture) and still allowed my son to play with him in a supervised setting.

I hate to think that maybe I missed the signs of abuse though. That's always an agonizing situation - I've run into far more times with little girls than boys, but maybe that's because I didn't recognize the signs.

Posted by: Cass at December 17, 2013 12:22 PM

Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure I would have been slow to recognize the signs of abuse in a boy OR a girl back then. I was a young mother (just 22 at the time) and my experience of the world at that point in my life didn't include much dysfunction.

Wish I could still say that today.

Posted by: Cass at December 17, 2013 12:24 PM

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