I grew up in the age of increasing awareness. My parents, like most, were afraid of the rest of the world. They kept an eye on me, asked where I was going, and checked my halloween candy for razors. Still, it hadn’t yet hit a point where the rest of the world was afraid of children. Well…that time is now, and I’ve gotta say – we should be ashamed – and not in that biblical, confession, you’ll-go-blind kind of way either.
A four-year-old child attending La Vega school district in Waco, Texas was recently suspended for “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment” after hugging a teacher’s aide and “rubb[ing] his face in the chest of (the) female employee” Dear lord, can these people be serious? I know punishment is severe in Texas, but this is the equivalent of grounding your dog for failing a grammar test.
I don’t even remember being four. I suppose I had a sister at the time – I probably spent a fair amount of days on the ground, in the dirt. Oh, yeah…and I split my free time between hardcore pornography and sleeping with prostitutes. No…no, wait…that’s not it…watching sesame street and playing house. Right. Sorry, I get confused.
Now it is certainly possible that this child, who goes unnamed for confidentiality purposes, was “inappropriately touching” the aide. As one psychiatrist explains, several factors go into the development of a child and some could lead to premature sexual behavior. Even the father admits that the boy may have deserved some level of punishment – but that the parents should have been there when it was explained. That’s not what concerns me…
Taking a step back, imagine a four year old comes up to you and rubs his face in your breasts – or your crotch. How do you react? A cold shower, and a phone call to 9-1-1? No…you pull them away from you and ask why they’re doing that. You get answers, and you explain the inappropriate nature of the behavior…unless, of course, you’re this teacher’s aide in this school district. Why is that? Why, rather than doing what any one of us would do, is she writing out a referral to In-School-Suspension? I would have to say that someone who is incapable of handing some unwanted touching in a pre-school classroom needs to find a different job…and perhaps needs to look a little deeper and find out why they thought the behavior was “inappropriately sexual.”
But I’m no psychiatrist. What I can say is this – if there was a possibility that this behavior was sexual, and that generally speaking, the only way a child that age would be doing sexually inappropriate things would be due to some sort of developmental trauma, maybe the suspension and letter home wasn’t the right course of action. Maybe – and i’m just stabbing in the dark here – maybe it would have been better to take him into an office the next day and have a little chat. Perhaps he could talk about his parents or his cousins -they could even invite that doll with all of the no-no touch zones.
Personally, I think the father’s an ok guy, but my only basis for that assumption is how zealously he’s fighting this thing. At this point, the school has lifted the suspension but refuses to expunge the damning language from the record. Dad wants it off, with good cause. Still, I’m of the mindset that having sexual harassment on your record as a four-year-old might make for a better conversation starter with the college admissions board than a deterrent. I mean, seriously…he’s 4!
Have we come to the point in our society where we don’t raise children, we just send them right to prison? What the hell is pre-school for if not to teach right from wrong? The school will be far better off just rolling over on this one – this isn’t exactly the new reputation waco was looking for – “Tough on things that would be crimes if your child was 20 years older.” I can see the real estate listings now…
Garry Stevens blogs at all in the delivery