When Randy Castro, from Prince William County, VA, was six when he smacked a female classmate's bottom at recess. When the classmate reported the incident, Randy's teacher took Randy to the principle, and from there, school officials wrote a report, describing the incident as "Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive." It will remain on his student record permanently. After all that, the school officials called the police.
If this treatment of a six-year-old seems harsh, it may be due to zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies that are in place in schools across the country, which may have caused teachers and school officials to be extra cautious about any incident that could hold the school responsible.
"The Virginia Department of Education reported that 255 elementary students were suspended last year for offensive sexual touching, or 'improper physical contact against a student.' In Maryland, 166 elementary school children were suspended last year for sexual harassment, including three preschoolers, 16 kindergartners and 22 first-graders, according to the State Department of Education.
...Mary Kay Sommers, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, said suspensions and calls to the police in such cases are overkill. The correct response, she said, would be to explore whether the behavior is linked to abuse and to teach students about respecting peers and what constitutes 'good touch' or 'bad touch.'"
The major problem I see here is a basic, but terrible misunderstanding about sexual harassment. Are zero-tolerance policies a good idea? Yes. No person should have to feel uncomfortable when they attend school. But these policies almost make a joke out of sexual harassment if they do not include better ideas about what constitutes harassment.
This boy may have seen inappropriate behavior on t.v. and then acted it out in real life. Children do that a lot, and they do need to be taught what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But calling the police? Putting this incident on his permanent record? I don't agree with that.
This boy should not be punished because the adults in his school system have some serious misconceptions about sexual harassment, especially if they are just afraid of being punished themselves for doing nothing. There obviously needs to be a much better dialog there about what constitutes sexual harassment. America needs to have a much better dialog about sexual harassment. It will remain a problem until people actually talk about it.
Sexual harassment has to include some sort of intent to cause discomfort and embarrassment or even harm in a manner that the perpetrator knows is sexual. I do not think this is the case for Randy Castro.
Just a note: I am not trying to downplay sexual harassment. It is a major problem that many people face on a day-to-day basis. I just feel that applying adult rules to children offenders is a problem.