School Drops Sexual Harrassment Claim

[Content Note: Rape culture; hostility to consent.]

Yesterday, I wrote about the case of a 6-year-old boy in Denver who had been suspended for school for sexual harassment after kissing a female classmate. This morning, after national outrage that a 6-year-old would be suspended for sexual harassment after "kissing a girl on the hand," it was reported that the school has let him return the boy has returned to class and the school has changed the charges on his school record from "sexual harassment" to "misconduct."

It's too bad the school caved to pressure, especially since the outrage was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts of the case, thanks to the media's helpful reporting of the boy's mother's description of the incident.

The reality differs rather significantly from her spin:
The girl's mother, Jade Masters-Ownbey, spoke out on a Facebook page and gave permission to the Daily Record to publish her response.

"Not once, but over and over...not with her permission but sneaking up on her...not without warning and consequences prior to suspension," she stated.

...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."

...Ownbey stated her daughter's older brother has felt like he needed to protect her at school.

"In elementary school, when a boy kisses a girl, the usual response of their peers is 'ewwww,'" she stated. "So why do the other kids rush to tell? Because they've seen it over and over, they've seen him repeatedly get in trouble for it, they've seen the girl repeatedly tell him to stop, they know it's wrong."
The school confirms Ownbey's account. Lincoln Principal Tammy DeWolfe noted that they first try to work with families to get the behavior to stop. But the behavior continued.
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.

"Our job as a school is to basically maintain a safe learning environment for all children in the school, and that's certainly what we're trying to do here," she said.

...Ownbey expressed hope that people would not "start bashing the school that is doing a great job protecting my child from what is sexual harassment."
But after a national outcry of rape apologia, the school district has reversed its decision.

The boy's family and supporters no doubt feel like they've won a real victory here, but failing to hold to account any child who does not respect consent and boundaries isn't doing that kid any favors. And not just because it teaches kids they're allowed to harm other people with impunity, which could get them into real trouble some day—but because it teaches them they don't have a right to say no, to draw boundaries with other people, either.

Harm apologia empowers people seeking to do harm. That's bad news for us all.

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