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Kimann Schultz

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Smoochgate: A Lesson Lost

Posted: 12/12/2013 3:56 pm

I am a fairly regular morning news television viewer. A glib response by two morning news hosts in defense of a 6-year-old Colorado boy who kissed a girl in class was as inappropriate as the boy's invasion of a fellow student's space in class. No grand transgression, but inappropriate all the same. I have a problem with the circus this became.

Let me qualify: I am, among other things, the mother of two adult sons and a 9-year-old girl. Little phases me and nothing surprises me.

I am raising a daughter who will soon be 10, and I am keenly aware of her personal safety, especially as it pertains to her personal space as she goes out into the world and must learn to protect herself. That does indeed start with school.

And I am raising her to believe -- and this is supported by school policy -- that she has an unequivocal right to never be touched/accosted in any way, shape or form that she does want or permit, nothing that might make her feel the least bit uncomfortable or invaded. It might mean asserting herself in the moment, it might mean asking for help -- it does mean never feeling afraid or bad in asking for help or in telling.

There is no wobbly line for this personal safety rule and no little girl (who might one day contend with adults who will push limits) should ever tolerate any unwanted or unwarranted invasion of her person or personal space. As we have witnessed here, that includes anyone having an indulgent moment where, once national media dives in like a low-brow entertainment entity, it results in a naïve and ignorant (as justifiable by his age and demeanor) boy-child parroting some adult on national television with a line about "having a lot of energy," as an excuse to having made inappropriate contact with a classmate.

This little boy has now not only been reinforced for his bad behavior, he has been granted 15 minutes of fame -- on a national level, no less. What and how we teach our little ones permanently shapes their personalities, and this seems to have been swept under the rug in the handling and broadcasting of the incident.

Where does this -- the indulging of inappropriate behavior and invasion of personal space, from the incident itself to its exploitation -- start and where does that end?

How should any incident be handled it so that the enforcing people, parents and school officials can keep all perspective and results commensurate with the incident, especially so it does not get lost in this social-media-addicted, viral environment, where adult quests for attention warp nearly every story out there? Yes, that includes national media picking up this story, and yes, it includes the broadcasters' pooh-poohing what the boy did on air.

Having heard that a harassment claim in connection to this was dropped, and that this issue was also broadcast via social media by some of the adults directly involved, thereby making puppets of both children, I feel this incident, which started out as a lesson one kid needed to be taught, grew into a massive mess, for it was used as an opportunity for 15 minutes of notoriety for a whole lot of others' benefit.

The girl had a right to be consoled and counseled to never permit/tolerate this. She and her parents had a right to know the situation was handled promptly and with consideration for her feelings.

The boy should have been reprimanded as close in time to the incident as possible due to his age, with a punishment he could fathom. A stern word or two, lost recess and a note/drawing of apology to the girl would have driven the point home. "Suspension" to a 6-year-old translates to a cozy home day.

We are left with a viral tale about a boy who has been confused into enjoying the attention the rest of us created.

Lesson Lost.

 
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