In an article entitled “A Touch During Recess, and Reaction is Swift” (Scott James, The New York Times) (and also in the YouTube video), the author covers the case of a first grader, only six years old, who was suspended for alleged sexual assault. What really happened is unsure because there were no witnesses besides the two boys involved. However, during a game of tag, the first grader was accused of touching the upper thigh area of another boy. The West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesperson was not allowed to speak about the actual event, but did state that any type of assault is taken very seriously. Many believe this to be due to bullying and recent rises in suicides.
This article can be connected to the debate of how vulnerable or innocent children really are, which is a concept that Peter Stearns addresses in his “Intro” and “Bored” (pgs. 3 and 173) chapters that we read. While Stearns explains the increasing popular support behind the idea of the vulnerable child, particularly in connection with the media, the idea that children are innocent is apparent in this article. This is shown through the statements made by the mother of the accused child, who says that tag is just a game and her son had no evil intentions. Further backing for the idea of innocence in this article is that many people were shocked when “such adult criminal intent was applied to a matter involving young children.” According to the article, in the state of California, matters of sexual intent can only be applied to students in the fourth grade or older. This implies that children up to the age of 9 or 10 are innocent when it comes to sexual matters. Because of this law, the first grade boy was able to get his school records cleared.
I agree that kids are inherently innocent. As one of my classmates mentioned when we discussed this idea, she knows (as do I) kids who can sing along to rap songs with suggestive or violent lyrics, but have no idea what they are talking about. I, myself, used to do this as well, despite the fact that my parents refused to buy me certain cd’s (The Spice Girls). Most people might not entertain the same theories of childhood innocence that I do, instead choosing to believe that children are vulnerable to what they see on television and in movies. I think that there comes a time in every child’s life when he or she begins to understand. I think it’s different for each child, as well as different for each touchy subject. For example, one child might understand violence before they understand sexual matters. I suppose that the real issue here is WHEN children become vulnerable or impressionable, and how adults can really tell when this change occurs.