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4-Year-Old Sexually Harassing a Teacher's Aide:

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports:

[A] Nov. 13 letter from La Vega Independent School District stated [DaMarcus Blackwell's] son, who was 4 years old at the time, was involved in "inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment" after the boy hugged a teacher's aide and "rubbed his face in the chest of (the) female employee" on Nov. 10.

The letter also stated Blackwell's son, who Blackwell requested not be named in this story for privacy reasons, spent the day in in-school suspension (ISS) as punishment for the incident.

Blackwell has since filed a complaint with the district.

In turn, the district changed the offense to "inappropriate physical contact" and removed references of sexual contact or sexual harassment from the boy's file, according to a subsequent letter from the district.

Still, Blackwell said the change isn't enough....

ReaderY:
I find it very interesting that contemporary opinion on homosexuality is based on claims that certain aspects of human sexual conduct are based on biological imperatives not subject to free will in the ordinary sense, while our sexual harassment law, particularly as it relates to children, can be supremely unforgiving to the point where it seems to be based on a concept that there is no biological basis for sexual behavior and all such behavior is under complete human command. Solemnly charging infants with sexual harassment is but a logical extension of a principle inherent in the way we approach the topic.
12.12.2006 7:58pm
Steve:
our sexual harassment law, particularly as it relates to children, can be supremely unforgiving

Uh, our sexual harassment law is based on employment discrimination. It has no applicability to the actions of children in the least.

Yes, I happen to think that people can generally control their biological imperatives enough to avoid grabbing people's asses around the office. That has little to do with the absurdity of accusing a 4-year old of sexual harassment.
12.12.2006 8:44pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I dunno if that's a valid comparison -- the real point, it seems to me, is to charge sexual misconduct against a child who probably has no idea what sex is and, if informed, find the idea quite strange and pointless.

I recall as a grade schooler hearing the nuns speak of St. Maria Goretti (sp?) who had had a wealthy landowner's son attempt a "sin of impurity" against her and, upon her resisting, killed her.

We all thought that was a gross over-reaction to a girl's refusal to listen to a fart joke. Literally, that was our idea of what must have happened.
12.12.2006 8:47pm
Tom952 (mail):
At 4, one should be forgiven for instinctual breast seeking. Perhaps he was hungry.
12.12.2006 8:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I'd say the real point of decisions and policies like this is to make life easier for school administrators. Look how much easier it is to have a zero tolerance policy than to make an informed judgement.

Zero tolerance for drugs, sexual displays, and hate speech lets the principal suspend everyone under the cover of the school board's policies while taking credit for being a tough, no-nonsense educator.

I can only hope most principals out there remind the complaining adult they are dealing with four-year-olds before kicking them out of the office. We probably don't hear about them.
12.12.2006 8:59pm
FantasiaWHT:

At 4, one should be forgiven for instinctual breast seeking. Perhaps he was hungry


Perhaps he was one of those lucky children to have his mother still planning on breast-feeding him until age 9.


Zero tolerance for drugs, sexual displays, and hate speech lets the principal suspend everyone under the cover of the school board's policies while taking credit for being a tough, no-nonsense educator.


And don't forget the zero tolerance for weapons. Kid has a little 1" pocketknife and he might get expelled. I'm not that old at all and when I went to elementary school most boys carried a pocketknife.
12.12.2006 9:26pm
Ricardo:
Contemporary opinion is that sexual attraction or preference is primarily biological, not conduct. You cannot force male employees to not find the young blond secretary with the nice legs hot but you can attempt to force them to treat her with respect.
12.12.2006 9:35pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I'd say the real point of decisions and policies like this is to make life easier for school administrators. Look how much easier it is to have a zero tolerance policy than to make an informed judgement.

Sure. Decisionmaking becomes easy. And there's a diminished threat of lawsuits. If it produces harmful results ... the administrator is not the one harmed.

I first figured that out when I was told of a case where an officer assigned near the border testified that she ALWAYS asked permission to search a car for drugs, with every traffic stop. I thought that unusual and mentioned it to a prosecutor friend. He replied sure -- that way no one can accuse her of discrimination, profiling, etc..

In that case, tho, the next question was -- so if you stopped the judge here, you'd ask to search his car for drugs? Yes. And his honor added "You know what I'd tell you?" "No, your honor." "I'd tell you to go to hell."
12.12.2006 9:51pm
Toby:
ReaderY is correct. We, as a culture, have the most astonishing combination of simulataneous ultru-prudery and coarseness.
12.12.2006 9:52pm
John (mail):
We didn't used to have school administrators who were insane. But we do now. Why? What has driven them mad? I suggest it is one or more of the following:

1. Fear of lawyers.
2. Fear of courts.
3. Fear of newspapers/TV/etc.
4. Fear of parents.
5. Fear of loss of liability insurance.

These fears grow out of observations of Columbine and other disasters, but lead to predictable overreactions.

In many ways, these "zero tolerance" things are very rational responses to the risks behind such fears. We should feel sorry for these administrators, not contempt.
12.12.2006 10:32pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
John, number 1 on your list should have been teacher's education colleges and teacher's unions.

Says the "Dog"
12.12.2006 11:11pm
Archon (mail):
Of what I understand about administrative law, my guess would be the parents would be able to litigate the disciplinary action by using the defense of infancy. A four year old is not of a sexual age and clearly has no idea that what he did was inappropriate.

Are we really to the point where someone can get chareged with sexual harassment for accidently rubbing an woman's breats. If so, I am guilty for doing so, inadvertently, in a crowded elevator the other day. I guess I should immediately be brough up on sexual harassment charges.
12.12.2006 11:14pm
DC Resident (mail):
I would posit that such zero-tolerance laws are a direct, and logical, consequence of our overly litigious society. People, including school administrators, used to use common sense. Some people had the bright idea that children deserve the same freedom of speech and privacy that adults have. (Heaven forbid a school principal reprimand a student for wearing inappropriate attire.) Factor in the expanded liability that schools face for stupid parents who don't take responsibility for the children's actions. (Yes, I child brought a gun to school, but it's not my fault and the school can't expel him without my due process.) The inevitable consequence is what we have today: Schools acting a defensive and absolutist manner because parents and courts have stripped the schools of their rightful ability to make common sense decisions.

I am not that old, but, when I was in school, except for the most egregious conduct, the teacher was right, and I had to live with it. It is a good lesson - one which lawyers should appreciate, as the law is not always concerned with getting it right.
12.12.2006 11:27pm
JB:
Re Dave Hardy's first comment: That's an awesome anecdote, and very true.
12.12.2006 11:37pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Even the MSM is pointing this out as PC gone amok. (Heard this on the radio Monday.)

I'm thinking that if that was sexual contact, then the aide is guilty of a lot worse for rubbing her breasts in a minor's face.

(In a not-quite-so-amok situation, a local high school has decided to stop publishing the names of kids who made the honor roll in the town paper, because it causes too much stress.)
12.13.2006 12:41am
ReaderY:

Uh, our sexual harassment law is based on employment discrimination. It has no applicability to the actions of children in the least.


Not true. The Supreme Court interpreted Title IX as applying to the actions of children. Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 119 S. Ct. 1661 No doubt the administrator perceived he or she had to do behave this way towards the four-year-old in order to avoid personal liability under Title IX, given the existence of actual knowledge of the conduct. Moreover, the teacher was an employee, so employment law applied as well.
12.13.2006 1:08am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
I don't know how to follow up Biufhufanam's trenchant comment regarding the investigation of corruption, cancerous tumors and education, but would ask if any of you have a toddler. I do, and I recognize that the conduct in question isn't sexual. A small child used to snuggling up with its mother (you know, the female partner in lesbian life partnerships, or sometimes the woman in a heterosexual marriage) will sort of root around until finding just the right spot for a really good nap, or a short repose. I can say it's really common if the child has a number of aunts or mommy's close female friends around to dote on him or her, and the child is used to being held a lot. At four, it's time to start teaching the child about social distance, but unless there's something going on here that isn't making it into the story - doubtful, because revealing salacious details would make the school's actions look less stupid - then it was probably pretty innocent.
12.13.2006 7:50am
rbj:
It's cases like this that call out for Sexual Harassment Panda. (sorry, couldn't resist a gratuitous South Park reference)

Regarding zero tolerance for knives; there was a case in South Carolina where a kid was suspended (and nearly expelled) for bringing a knife to school. As he had braces, he needed it to cut up his banana, and it was a butter knife -- nothing sharp.
12.13.2006 7:54am
jack (mail):

I'm thinking that if that was sexual contact, then the aide is guilty of a lot worse for rubbing her breasts in a minor's face.


Well, let's just track down that boy and give him his "Luckiest Boy in the World" medal!

/more gratuitous south park...
12.13.2006 8:28am
johnt (mail):
Minors have been charged for sexual misdeeds with or against other minors, in school or out. Just how someone above gets the idea that harassment laws are based on employment discrimination eludes me. Minors have been listed as sexual offenders for consensual sex within their age group and it certainly isn't all taking place in the back room at Macdonalds.
As to the case in point, typical overreaction from a breed unto themselves, our educators[?], whipped this way and that by the ever changing gusts of media whim.
12.13.2006 8:47am
Falafalafocus (mail):
I object. There is no such thing as a gratuitous south park reference. I mean, c'mon! Besides, sexual harrasment panda can really teach us a valuable lesson about cases like this.
12.13.2006 8:56am
Miggs:
biufhufanam, that's easy for you to say.
12.13.2006 9:26am
lucia (mail) (www):
rbj said:> "As he had braces, he needed it to cut up his banana, and it was a butter knife -- nothing sharp."

I had braces; I bit into bananas. Heck, I bit into apples, pears, and celery. What gives?

I agree suspension for bringing a dull edged butter knife is excessive. Still, I'm not buying the "he needed it because he had braces claim." Even if he has some problem biting into a soft banana, he can break off bits with his hands. He can use the side of a fork. To avoid the inconvenience of setting off gun detecting metal detectors, he could use a plastic spoon.
12.13.2006 9:28am
Steph (mail):
Every one is missing the really shocking thing. This preschool teacher is supposed to be used to working with 4 year olds. Doesn't she give out hugs?

One would think that would be a normal part of taking care of 4 year olds. Humans need physical contact and the younger they are the more they need it. If she was doing her job right she would be hugging her students on a regular basis.

I am not some left wing touchy feely type, I am a stiff upper lip right winger, but even I am shocked at this lack of empathy.

If this is anything like a normal occurence, our society is sick, sick, sick!
12.13.2006 10:41am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Minors have been charged for sexual misdeeds with or against other minors, in school or out. Just how someone above gets the idea that harassment laws are based on employment discrimination eludes me.

Minors have been charged with assault. Sexual harassment is a civil matter.
12.13.2006 10:43am
RainerK:
No matter what the law is, if it allows adult anal retentiveness to punish four-year-olds, then the law is an ass.
I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the teacher's aide initiated the investigation herself out of fear that someone thought she was doing something "inappropriate" to the child and she'd be investigated with all those well-known life-changing consquences.
Anybody ever wondered what's wrong with a culture incessantly searching for sexuality in children and tirelessly projecting their own pathological hang-ups on them? They're children, for God's sakes. Not little adults.
Yep, let's teach them all about "social distance" from day one to make sure no neurotic adult's sensibilities are ever challenged.
It's ALL for the children!
12.13.2006 10:48am
Houston Lawyer:
When I was 8, I had a pocket knife that often went with me to school. The boys used to play games that involved throwing their knives to stick in the ground. But we also had guns in our trucks in high school. I won't buy my 8-year-old boy a pocket knife for fear that he may accidentally take it to school and then get expelled.

When my boy was 5, two of my wife's well endowed friends were vigorously tickling him. This involved a fair amount of contact between him and their boobs. After a few minutes of this, one of the women's buttons popped open exposing quite a bit of cleavage and my boy grabbed a handful. There was not a man or woman in the room who thought that this was anything but funny.
12.13.2006 10:49am
Alex Bensky (mail):
I'd love to see a psychological profile of a woman who finds anything a four year old does to be sexual harrassment.

As to biufhufanam's statement, I can neither argue nor improve upon it.
12.13.2006 10:59am
kerouacbum:

Well, let's just track down that boy and give him his "Luckiest Boy in the World" medal!


"These allegations are all true."

"Nice!"
12.13.2006 11:29am
RainerK:
"Doesn't she give out hugs?"

Many of them don't any more. If the unscientific example of my friends is representative.
Sure, humans need physical contact, but in this oversexualised culture that need is suspended between the ages of about 6 and 18. At least in the wish of adults. Frequently society rigorously enforces this wish with incredible zeal, never mind the consequences.

It has been my observation that Anglo culture (US, GB, Australia in particular) has a tendency toward what I call the "missionary moral absolute". That is the belief that something is so right, everybody must be converted to it.
They push these absolutes with intolerance and all the might of the State. In the process they are quite willing to abandon important tenets without which society actually regresses, instead of advancing. Advancement being defined as the preservation of liberty and justice.
Other cultures, particularly in Europe, but also in Asia are much more open to prudent, although often tortured compromise.
12.13.2006 11:59am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
There was a time when a four year old who was behaving in a way that suggested a knowledge of sex would be questioned to see if he or she was being sexually abused--not charged! Crazy.

And yes, school administrators have gone crazy out of fear of lawsuits. Some years ago, my daughter was in elementary school. We got to be friends with the parents of one of her classmates. John, the father, was a big guy--about 6'4". John worked security for one of the chain drug stores. The photo developing department asked him to look at some pictures that they were developing--nothing but pictures of little girls playing on the playground at our elementary school--and every picture focused on their rear ends. There wasn't actually anything criminal about this--just a bit creepy--but John made a point of seeing who picked up the pictures.

A few days go by. John is at the school, picking up his daughter. Mr. Creepy is on school grounds, taking pictures. John goes over to him and says, "Who are you? What are you doing here?" Mr. Creepy can't seem to give a clear answer, so John grabs him by the arm, and takes him to the principal's office. John explains to the principal Mr. Creepy's photographs at the photo developer--and that Mr. Creepy is on school grounds, taking pictures of the little girls.

The principal's first reaction is, "John, you didn't force him to come in here, did you?"

Mr. Creepy then claims that he is there taking pictures of the school for a architect that is going to be doing some renovation work there. The renovations were news to the principal--and when asked to identify the architectural firm that hired him, Mr. Creepy can't remember. Nor can he pick them out of the phone book.

The principal tells Mr. Creepy to leave the school grounds--but is far more concerned about John's actions, than Mr. Creepy's actions.

The vulgar but hilarious line in Ghostbusters where they make reference to the EPA's prig's lack of genitals comes to mind.
12.13.2006 12:10pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
RainerK observes:


Other cultures, particularly in Europe, but also in Asia are much more open to prudent, although often tortured compromise.
What you are describing is discretion and judgment. Lawyers don't allow that, because there's an equal protection lawsuit (and some money) hiding behind any individuals' use of discretion or judgment.
12.13.2006 12:12pm
LAS (mail):
Hmm?
1. Small independent school district in TX.
2. School Officials changing the offense to "inappropriate physical contact."
3. School district's efforts to contact the parents failed.
4. Parent can't clarify if a discipline report is in his son's permanent record.
5. The incident makes news in Waco after a month.

A Waco Tribune commenter said it best, "The safest place for a child is at his mother's breast. She wasn't there. Can't a "teacher" figure that out and deal with this in a manner that will respect his curiosity and yet teach a child what is off limits in a way that will help him respect the "differences"? Innocense should not be punished!"
12.13.2006 12:16pm
Eric Chad (mail) (www):
This whole situation is almost comically ridiculous. How can anything a 4-year-old boy does be sexual. If the sensitivities of this teacher's aide are really so fragile, she shouldn't be hugging the children at the preschool.

I remember hugging my mother several times as a child. Reaching up as a child is forced to when hugging even a crouching adult, the most natural places for the child to rest its head are the shoulder and chest.

Four-year-olds have only the most basic understand of what is right and what is wrong. To expect someone at this age to understand the nuances of appropriate and inapproriate hugging is reaching too far.
12.13.2006 12:38pm
Chris B (mail):
I'm well aware that anecdote doesn't equal data but I disagree with the '4 year olds aren't sexual' claims.

My wife works in a day with 2-3 year old children. She has both witnessed and been the object of 'gropes' by boys who seemed well aware of exactly what they were doing. Whether the intent was sexual or not would be open to debate, but they weren't accidentally making contact. They were purposefully grabbing or touching.
12.13.2006 12:55pm
RainerK:
"There was a time when a four year old who was behaving in a way that suggested a knowledge of sex would be questioned to see if he or she was being sexually abused..."

Quite in line with my earlier drift. No wonder anyone would be paranoid getting near a child. Especially when middle-aged and male.
Looking for sex everywhere! Reminds me of Bob Dylan's John Birch Paranoid Blues. Except there it was Commie hunting.
12.13.2006 1:01pm
rbj:
Chris B. I think those "gropes" are less about sexual intent (unlike, say, my groping) and more about a young child's exploration of the world; similar to younger kids grabbing glasses. And getting a reaction from adults for those acts usually winds up enforcing such behavior.
12.13.2006 1:24pm
Ken Arromdee:
I immediately thought of this older story, where a 9 year old was suspended for violating a school's sexual harassment policy for kissing a girl:

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=News&id=1256474
12.13.2006 1:30pm
Seamus (mail):

The vulgar but hilarious line in Ghostbusters where they make reference to the EPA's prig's lack of genitals comes to mind.



Did you notice that that guy was the spitting image of Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration? Acted like him, too.
12.13.2006 6:29pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The problem extends into criminal law. I've spoken with defense attorneys for juveniles who have dealt with cases of two kids charged with rape. Why? Because they were both underage when they had consensual sex with each other.


I'm thinking that if that was sexual contact, then the aide is guilty of a lot worse for rubbing her breasts in a minor's face.

You may be joking, but you actually have a good point. The aide should be careful about making such charges because she can face much, much more serious consequences than the four-year old. She's playing with fire.
12.14.2006 3:53am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
At 4, one should be forgiven for instinctual breast seeking. Perhaps he was hungry.

Children at that age like breasts for the same reason they like pillows - they're comfy. That's all there is to it.
12.14.2006 4:05am
wavemaker (www):
Clayton Cramer -- your anecdote is interesting, but seriously, "John's" officious intermeddling is almost as alarming as Mr. Creepy's photo hobby. I wouldn't blame the principal for questioning his actions.
12.15.2006 7:12am
Angel (mail):
4 year old or not. Children of all ages needs to understand that you just can't go around grabbing and touching people. And yes I believe that some children are innocent in their actions. And then there are some who know exactly what they are doing. It all goes back to the parents. We(parents) need to start being parents again and stop being our childrens "freinds". Parents lets stop letting the television and computers raise our children. We are so quick to blame television and video games for our childrens problems. When all we have to do is look in the mirror. Afterall it all begins at home!


12.15.2006 8:34am