School district officials in Arizona are defending their decision to label a 5-year-old's actions as "sexual misconduct."
Erica Martinez told AZ Family last week that in April her son, Eric Lopez, pulled down his pants at Ashton Ranch Elementary School after another student threatened him. She says the other student told Eric that if he didn't pull down his own pants, he would do it for him.
Eric then pulled down his pants and underwear and was taken to the principal's office, where school officials told him to sign a document agreeing that what he did was "sexual misconduct." Eric's only punishment was detention, but the sexual misconduct label will remain on his school record.
He was not criminally charged.
Martinez is furious that the school did not call her in before making her son sign the document.
“He’s a 5-year-old," Martinez told AZFamily. “He does not know right from wrong yet.”
The district policy is that parents do need to be present for disciplinary meetings unless the student asks for them, but Eric was never informed he could ask for his mom.
On Friday, Dysart Unifed School District Assistant Superintendent Jim Dean defended the decision to AZ Family and suggested that the label itself was unimportant.
"Even though the discipline labels are consistently used and the discipline form is consistent from grades K-12 to ensure all legal mandates are met, the discussion the administrator has about a situation and consequences are age appropriate," he said. "The discussion with a kindergarten student is focused on the specific action, not on the label that is used for classifying the infraction."
Ashton Elementary is only the latest in a series of schools to be criticized for disciplinary measures that critics called too harsh. In may, high school seniors in Tennessee were slapped with criminal charges after allegedly starting a food fight in their cafeteria on "Taco Day."
Last year, a 7-year-old in Maryland was suspended for biting his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. Also last year, a 14-year-old in Michigan was expelled for 180 days and charged with assault after a teacher grabbed a piece of paper out of his hand and he allegedly engaged in a tug-of-war with her trying to get the paper back.