A six-year-old Brockton, Massachusetts boy has been suspended for three days for sexual harassment after he put two fingers inside a classmate's waistband. (The boy says she touched him first.) The AP correctly reports that "experts say only in rare, troubling cases can children that young truly sexually harass one another." But Brockton's code of conduct defines sexual harassment as “uninvited physical contact such as touching, hugging, patting or pinching.” The code does not go on to state, "Repeated offenses may lead the offending child to be tried as a witch by the gentlemen of the county and if found guilty, to be burnt at the stake."

The sexual harassment charge of course is nonsense. But it does make you feel for the challenge primary teachers face. Kids put their hands on each other all the time; establishing a clear line where you will discipline when things get out of hand must be tough. Fellow was walking home with a friend from school last week, and when we said goodbye, he gave the girl a hug, which she was happy to share, but then he asked her for a kiss, she said no, and he was somewhat upset - and disturbingly persistent. Yet when you're 5, you've spent your whole life being told to give everyone who comes into and out of your life "a kiss and hug," so it's not surprising that the idea gets taken to school. A puzzlement.


Cheerleaders at a Sarasota (FL) high school wanted to invite a local celebrity to "host" their upcoming school dance, and wouldn't you know it, Jerry Springer agreed. Upon hearing the good news, school officials immediately withdrew the invitation. The principal did not pick up the microphone at a school assembly later that afternoon to yell at the girls, "All y'all are a bunch of skanks and hos! That's right, I said it!"


There's certainly a point to Emily Bazelon's recent Slate essay on limiting the number of birthday presents her child receives - and we're pretty sure it's that she wants us to know that she's a better parent than we are. And it was certainly kind of Slate to give her the space to state her case, but we'd like to offer a rebuttal.

In a nutshell, Bazelon's dilemma is that her six-year-old's birthday comes so soon after Chanukah that she frets about him receiving so many fresh presents at his party:

When my kids receive more than one present at a time, they can barely take note of what they've been given. The act of tearing open boxes overwhelms their curiosity about what's inside. They always want more, more, MORE! It's a binge, and it can't be good for them. 

OK, but since you're so sure he's not paying attention anyway, why not just let the kid open all the presents, which is undeniably great fun for him, and then put a bunch of them aside to be introduced later in the year, like everyone else does? Oh, right. That wouldn't make for much of a column. Better to try something superior and wacky . . . So Bazelon introduces the children's party "book swap," in which each kid brings a book that they swap with a friend, in lieu of a present for the birthday boy, and then everyone's happy - with the possible exception of the kid hosting the party. Shockingly, her son eventually balked at this format, so this year, Bazelon searched for a way to adapt it:

We could tell Eli that he would have to donate some of his presents to a charity, but that felt rude to the kids who'd given the gifts . . . We could also tell Eli that he could keep the presents and in exchange we'd give money to an organization for needy kids—a sort of birthday tithe. But while that's a great idea for a bar- or bat mitzvah, it seems pretty abstract for a kindergartner, especially one whose net worth is a handful of change. . .

I had a proposal. We'd have the book swap. But we'd also let Eli choose five friends who would each give him a present. We would supply books on these kids' behalf, so we wouldn't have to ask any parents to ante up twice and there'd be enough to go around. . . He went for it, if grudgingly. In the invitations describing the book swap, we'd explained that we were trying to avoid a post-holiday second deluge of plastic. (Eli's birthday is in January.) In the e-mail to the parents of the five present-givers, we told them to go nuts. They were happy to play along.

Let's see, what could possibly be wrong with this solution? Anybody? Anybody? Yes, you in the back row. . . That's exactly right: The problem is that 20 of the 25 kids coming to the party - and their parents - are being told that they are her son's second-tier friends. And that's . . . yes, go ahead . . . Correct again! It's unspeakably rude! Thank you for playing.

February 10, 2006 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference :


The comments to this entry are closed.