I was shocked to read this news in TIMES OF INDIA 13 December 2013, ‘US school suspends boy 6, for kissing girl.’ It has raised several questions that we should address as a society-
1. Whether a peck should be considered sexual harassment?
Young children thrive on touch, touch is one of their most important senses in the early years and naturally they show and accept love using this sense the most. In this case is it necessary to paint this child as a ‘sexual predator?’
2. The child said he had a crush on the girl and the girl likes him back. During a reading class the child leaned over and kissed the girl on her hand.
It is natural for kids to hug, kiss and show affection. Do we want to take this away from the childhood years too? Teaching them about good touch-bad touch or bullying is required, but should we be saying don’t touch each other at all? Will this not have an impact on emotional development as human beings? Should we not try and control the kind of programs that we expose these kids to? Sexual content on television and movies leads to kids becoming very comfortable with words like sex, lip kissing, crush, much before they have even understood the meaning of the word or are able to read or spell them. There is a new trend among parents, of kissing their kids on their lips. Many find it quite natural but I am against it for 2 reasons- a) when you teach your child that kissing on lips is an acceptable way to show affection then they will accept it from all adults. Better to teach them then that only mummy and daddy can kiss you here. b) At this young age they are susceptible to a lot of infections and the mouth has the most bacteria. I think adults should refrain from kissing kids on their lips, mainly for health reasons. In fact I have made a Muppet video to educate kids and parents about this as we faced a lot of problems when kids started kissing each other on the lips and some parents found it a cultural shock and complained against it. View the video on http://youtu.be/KVgMTvmXeUA
3. The mother of the 6 year old is shocked that a term as strong as sexual harassment is being used for what her son did.
The clarity here needs to be clear and sensible- kids in the early childhood years don’t commit sexual crimes, sexual crimes are committed against them. So let’s not make a mockery of the law and use it against them in the growing years.
4. Whereas the principal says he is suspended because of a policy against unwanted touching.
If we are going to define policies that take away the human element from kids in their growing years then we will be bringing up a generation that is bereft of all emotional feelings and have no emotional bonds. Schools can have clearly defined policies for bad touch or define which parts of the body cannot be touched by adults or an ant bullying policy.
5. This is the second time the boy has been suspended.
Is suspension of kids the solution for schools to follow? In her Exchange article (May/June 2012), "Belonging”, Ruth Wilson writes, ‘While there are certainly many reasons why young children are having such severe behavioral issues as to warrant expulsion from school, one explanation is that their belonging needs are not being met. This tends to happen when the structure of a program suggests that, in order to belong, a child must conform to a pre-determined set of rules and expectations. These rules and expectations, in some cases, are not appropriate for young children’.
It’s time we nurture kids in school and give them schools that help them belong after all belonging is an important need of every human being. Let’s not strip away everything good from children’s lives on the pretext of keeping them safe. I would never want touch to become trouble for any child. But having a touch less society is also not good, so let’s rethink about boundaries, barriers and get our distinction correct so that it helps kids and does not give them yet another label.
What are your thoughts on this?