(Edited on 12/18 to make my own viewpoint clearer.)
So, there’s a lot of talk about this little boy who kissed a girl’s hand without her permission, and got suspended for sexual harassment. People seem to be outraged about it, for various reasons, and given my own experience with discipline as a child, I’m a bit baffled.
Is it an outrage because the kid did nothing wrong? No, he did something wrong– he kissed a girl without permission. Someone has to tell him that’s not okay.
Is it an outrage because he’ll have a record of sexual harassment for the rest of his life? No he won’t– as far as I can tell from the articles, no legal charges were brought against him, that was just the language used when punishing him. It will be on his grade-school disciplinary record, but that is not going to follow him into adulthood.
Is it an outrage because suspension is a harsh punishment for a child who didn’t know he was doing anything wrong? Maybe, but according to news stories, this boy had harassed this girl multiple times before, and whatever the teachers had done to try and discourage him, it wasn’t working. They may have seen suspension as a last resort. (Of course, maybe I’m influenced by the fact that suspension never seemed like a big deal when I was a kid… I got suspended a LOT, and my childhood self always felt that it couldn’t be a very severe offense if it was punishable by getting a day off school.)
Let me tell you something about my childhood. I was a socially awkward, often disruptive and badly behaved kid. I’ve talked about it in my book and in speeches. Because I lacked impulse control and understanding of social rules, I did the same sort of thing this kid did. I hurt, offended, and yes, sometimes kissed other students without their permission.
Often, I got suspended for it.
Often, the words “sexual harassment” were used when suspending me.
And I survived. I am now a law-abiding, kind, thoughtful, empathetic, and relatively successful adult.
Punishing children for sexual harassment is not a new thing. I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s.
It is not unfairly singling out boys. I was a girl, and the kids I kissed were often male.
It does not label you for life as a sex offender. I had a disciplinary record in school, but no one looks at your elementary school record when deciding anything in your adult life.
And it does not ruin your life. In the best cases, it can make kids realize they’re doing something wrong, and turn their behavior around.
Yes, kids don’t necessarily understand what they’re doing. But that is what discipline is for.
Not all disciplinary actions are helpful, of course. But telling a child it’s wrong to steal kisses, and using a suspension to drive the point home, is perfectly reasonable.