Middle-school fanny slap or sexual assault? You decide
Kathleen Parker Jewish World Review
Jan. 8, 2000
THE MIDDLE-SCHOOL fanny slap heard 'round
the world has angered all the wrong people and
increased confusion over everything from sexual
harassment to zero tolerance in America's schools.
As you may have heard by now, a 14-year-old boy
last month slapped the fanny of a 13-year-old girl at
Espanola Middle School in Espanola, New Mexico.
A school official witnessed the incident and
summoned police, calling it a "criminal sexual
So began a saga that, like so many tales, has taken
on an Internet life of its own. I've been e-mailed at
least a dozen copies of the original story,
accompanied by commentaries of outrage and
gender spin from the usual suspects.
Men's groups are angry that an innocent lad playing
cheeky games is being herded into the
juvenile-justice system. Women are angry that, once
again, boys-will-be-boys at the expense of a female's
dignity and personal space. Zero-tolerance critics,
whose company I generally enjoy, are angry that this
seems to be yet another over-the-top reaction to
ordinary child's play in the politically correct asylum.
Those who are not angry include the 13-year-old girl
who was slapped and her mother, who didn't want to
press charges. But who cares about them?
We know what we know, and when a male's hand
inappropriately makes contact with a female body,
we've got a national sexual-harassment issue of chad
Or do we?
This time, everyone's a little bit wrong and a little bit
right. What's wrong is the assumption that the
offending boy is an innocent. He may be a victim of
life's lousy deal, but his angel wings are a little
tattered. This is his second brush with a girl's behind
and his fifth with the New Mexico Department of
Children, Youth & Families (DCYF).
He has been charged three times with possession of
marijuana, which, though not necessarily a serious
crime (certainly not in New Mexico, where Gov.
Gary "I Inhaled" Johnson is an advocate for
decriminalization), is nonetheless a problem for any
child. He also previously has been charged with
In other words, "This is not your National Junior Honor Society student,"
said Romaine Serna, DCYF spokesperson.
What's right about the case is appropriate concern that this boy could end
up spending two years in juvenile detention for what amounts to aggressive
bad manners and a history suggesting that he needs more help than
punishment. Investigators with DCYF completed their investigation
Wednesday and are recommending that the district attorney formally
charge the child with assault.
They determined that there was no sexual content to the slap and,
therefore, no justification for sexual-harassment or criminal sexual-assault
The district attorney will decide what charge to bring, but Serna, who
admits to feeling sorry for "any kid that's having trouble with boundaries," is
hoping for a combination of probation and therapy, which seems
reasonable, given the boy's history.
Still, lovers of common sense can't help wishing that the school official
hadn't called police in the first place. That instead he had grabbed the kid
by his collar and said, "That's it, punk. You're staying after school and
cleaning bathrooms for the next three months!"
Maybe, during those after-school hours, the kid might have learned
something about consequences. Maybe the supervising teacher might have
learned something about a boy who lives with a guardian, who is smoking
pot and stealing, who hasn't been taught to keep his hands to himself.
Instead, we seem to have reached a point when common sense can't be
applied and draconian responses are the norm rather than the exception.
We've learned, meanwhile, only this: The female derriere is off limits until
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