Friday, January 05, 2007

Totally Inappropriate

Last month in Waco, Texas, a four-year-old boy was suspended for "inappropriate physical behaviour interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment" after he hugged a teacher's aide. The pre-kindergartener had "rubbed his face in the chest of the female employee". The father objected, saying that his son didn't know what sex was. The month before, two Dallas middle-school girls were punished for hugging in the hallway. Hugging, said the principal, "increases the chances of inappropriate touching". Before Christmas, a five-year-old boy in Maryland was suspended for pinching the bum of a female classmate, which constituted "inappropriate physical conduct of a sexual nature". His father also despaired: "He knows nothing about sex. There's no way to explain what he's been written up for."

What are kids meant to make of a world of such mixed signals? On the one hand, Pamela Anderson boasts on stage during her media roast on cable television last summer that she has "a really tight . . ." - well, now I'll be coy, but it has something to do with cats. On the other hand, hugging your teacher at the age of four gets you booted out of class. Popular culture grows only more licentious, while standards of the "appropriate" at work and in school grow only more strict. Moreover, the "new" priggishness in education is a cover for an age-old discomfort that children are anatomically correct.

In any event, you can bet that those kids in Texas and Maryland have been successfully traumatised, even if they had no idea what they did wrong. They'll have felt the stinging, clinging mortification that I remember all too well from my own childhood, in relation to anything from pee to poo "down there". Too, in an incest-touchy climate, will we soon revoke the right of parents to hug their own children? I don't call this progress.
What are we supposed to make of a world in which a four year old is thrown out of school for hugging? An article by Lionel Shriver for the Guardian.

Could someone please explain to me what is going on?

I read the article and was bewildered, I find it ridiculous.

I think Lionel raises some important points. The kids in the US are receiving numerous mixed messages, from what they see on the TV and on the street.

How do they make sense of this?

I have had some inappropriate moments

1. I went for an interview a number of years ago. The Interviewer was male, and as I walked out the door, shook his hand, he grabbed my breast and squeezed it. I was so stunned I could not do or say anything. Clearly, that was not a company I would ever work for.
2. Last year when I was on holiday, the Manager of the hotel I was in, had gone out of his way to make my mother's birthday special. I went to his office to thank him. Again, as I am walking out the door, he gave me a slobbery kiss. Ugh! It was awkward, as I pulled away, and he disappeared for the rest of our stay at the hotel.

Have you had any situations that are inappropriate?

I have added Chiara di Notte to my sidebar. She blogs in Italian,pay her a visit. Chiara I realised a few days ago that you had linked to me, thank you.

Have a good weekend!

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Banning four-year-olds for hugging a teacher IS absurd, but I can explain a bit. In the US the way law enforcement works seems to be different from in other countries.

For example, I am hypothesising here, but suppose there IS a problem with sexual behavior in schools. Government, probably state government, will enact a law ordaining no tolerance for any touching in schools.

Part of the law will state that any teacher or adult who witnesses any touching will be guilty of breaking the law if they do not report it to the authorities. Thus people who work in schools will take actions like suspending children, even for absurd trivial things, because they fear that if they do not, they may lose their jobs and go to prison.

Similarly, in the USA, you should avoid sending a film to be developed if it contains a picture of baby in the bath, because some film technician may feel that you are putting their job at risk.

Sad, but true. I think this attitude to law enforcement springs partly from the fundamentalist mindset that is much more prevalent here that people overseas can imagine.

So, to summarize, the heads who suspended the children probably think this is just as stupid as you do, but they are terrified for their jobs, because the law allows them no discretion. If they use discretion, they fear they may be accused of covering up, which is even worse.

It is outrageous and ridiculous. I guess this fits with my belief of anything goes in the US. I doubt that would be accepted in the UK.

I did not realise the laws there were so rigid.
I have no idea what happened in America, but years and years of different situations cropping up in the media has created a hyper-sensitive school system in almost every city now. It's the accumulation of sex scandals, school shootings, poisonings, violence, bullying, etc. We can thank the American media for overblowing most situations, and creating a false sense of panic among parents and teachers.

In my city, for example, if a certain child in an elementary classroom is having a birthday, the school will no longer allow home-baked items to be brought to school for the party. All goods must be store-bought (to prevent potential food poisoning). This is most likely the result of a few well publicized cases where kids brought brownies laced with marijuana and feeding it to their teacher as joke. The solution? No more home baking.

If a student is having a bad day, or is sad or depressed, forget the days where a sympathetic teacher might offer a quick hug. That might be misread by a parent, so no teacher will ever TOUCH your child now. They feel they must remain cold and distant. They do not want to be accused of any sexual contact.

If your child so much as draws a picture or scene depicting guns or violence against another classmate, nt only will they be expelled, but they might face a meeting with the police!

It's crazy. The "laws" are not so rigid here, but the population seems to be getting collectively crazier each year. People are overreacting to pretty much everything.

Another trend that I have noticed: Kids are almost never allowed to walk to school in many neighborhoods. Their parents will not allow it. They fear child abductions. So each morning, you see a long line of cars dropping off their kids at school, creating traffic delays. When I was young, a kid was only driven to school if it was raining heavily (and the parent happened to be going that way). I remember owning all kinds of harsh-weather gear. Nowadays, in America, you can not even FIND a raincoat for a child in a store.

I have NO idea how things are in Europe. I hope it is not as bad as it seems to be in America. I really long for the way things were back in my childhood. I really do.

Things happen in London too. You hear about a thirteen year old raping a six year old.

I see kids walking home from school, and I worry about them. It is not safe.

In the inner city schools, kids carry knives.Some Teachers have been stabbed.

It was not like this when I was at school, either.
It's supposed to be about respect. The problem is it has got too political. Children can't sing certain nursery rhymes anymore such as "baa baa black sheep". I think it's the world gone mad.

When I had my first child and he was a baby he got constipated. The health visitor told me to give him herbal water to drink. My next door neighbour who was much older advised me that when she had babies and they got this problem, they would put a blob of vaseline on their little finger and gently insert it into baby's bum and hey presto!.. a result and relief for crying infant who was clearly in discomfort.

Health visitor was in total shock when I asked her about that. She told me it was tantemount to abuse.

The things we can and cannot do are about invasion of personal space and respect. In that instance I kind of agreed with health visitor, but could not help the feeling of "it's ny child, I should be able to make the decision without being judged"

As far as the photo thing, I knew about this, and one can understand , but at the same time shake one's head in frustration.

Hope the baby story was not too excrutiating Nia!
Hi Blueslady,

I can see both sides to your story. It is so tricky.

The baby story was informative :)
Hugs are good.

Personal contact is good.

It's just that it can be misinterpreted.

As a senior manager I often met female staff who were upset about personal problems. It would have been natural to give them a hug. But as their manager ...

I think I did once with my secretary when she was distraut about a serious problem with her daughter.

But it is fraught with difficulties for men.

With children also. They need hugs even more than the rest of us. Most nursery/kindergarted teachers will hug children daily. But when the teacher is a man?

It is such a shame that we have become frightened of hugs in case they are misinterpreted or because we worry they may be something else. We are a poorer society because of it.
With respect to Beau. You are wrong about teachers of infants hugging them. They are not allowed to hug the children. It is not advisable for any teacher to have physical contact with any child of any age, unless administering first aid as it can be used against them so they have to protect themselves.

The children can hug the teacher though!
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