There is a lot of outrage regarding this story being reported by the AP today, about a 6-year-old boy in Denver who has been suspended for school for sexual harassment after kissing a female classmate.
The AP's lede, in fact, is: "The suspension of a 6-year-old boy for kissing a girl at school is raising questions about whether the peck should be considered sexual harassment."
That is followed immediately by:
The boy's mother said officials at Lincoln School of Science and Technology in Canon City, a southern Colorado city of 16,000, are over-reacting. Jennifer Saunders said her son was suspended once before for kissing the girl and had other disciplinary problems, and she was surprised to find out that he would be forced out of school again for several days.His mother says people are overreacting over one little kiss geez. Except it wasn't once: He has been previously suspended for kissing the same classmate, without her consent, and now has done it again.
First grader [name redacted] told KRDO-TV that he has a crush on a girl at school and she likes him back.It's amazing (not remotely amazing) that this defense looks precisely like the rape apologia we see after every other case in which a male student breaches the consent of a female classmate. It was mutual. It was no big deal. There's nothing wrong with it. It's normal. It's natural. It's just a boy being a boy. To call out this behavior, to punish it, will have negative consequences for the boy who breached a girl's consent. It will ruin his life.
"It was during class, yeah. We were doing reading group, and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That's what happened," he said.
Saunders said she saw nothing wrong with her son's display of affection.
..."This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a six year old. Now my son is asking questions. what is sex mommy? That should not ever be said, sex. Not in a sentence with a six year old," she said.
...A child psychologist told KRDO that tough love in this case could have negative consequences. She said kissing is normal behavior for children of that age.
"For most 6-year-old boys, absolutely. That would be a normal behavior," said Sandy Wurtele, a child clinical psychologist who specializes in child sexual development and the prevention of childhood sexual abuse.
Wurtele said she was surprised to hear the school suspended him.
"That really gives mixed messages, negative messages to the kids," she said. "This part of development is just as important if not more than their academic subjects."
Wurtele said children at that age are simply curious about the differences between boys and girls.
These are grade school variations on literally exactly the same narratives we see after cases like Steubenville.
Fortunately, the school is standing by their decision.
District superintendent Robin Gooldy told The Associated Press on Tuesday the boy was suspended because of a policy against unwanted touching.That is absolutely the right approach. This school district is interested not only in protecting the female student from unwanted touching, but in conveying to the male student that what he's doing is not right and will not be tolerated. Conveying that unwanted sexual attention is unacceptable is the most basic form of rape prevention.
"The focus needs to be on his behavior. We usually try to get the student to stop, but if it continues, we need to take action and it sometimes rises to the level of suspension," he said.
And treating a zero tolerance policy on unwanted touching like an "overreaction" is the most basic form of rape apologia.