Sexual harassment is a serious topic. It is the unwelcome or inappropriate sexual advances from another person. It is often accompanied with the promise of rewards for sexual favors. And it is illegal.
Recently, in the news, have been instances of children being charged with sexual harassment. The consequences have been serious. These consequences will follow them into their futures.
Hunter Yelton, a six year old boy was charged with sexual harassment for kissing his friend on the hand. At first he was suspended from school for two days. And a mark was put on his record stating that he had sexually harassed someone. There were many complaints for so harshly punishing someone so young. His record was changed to state misconduct instead of sexual harassment. According to the definition he may have sexually harassed his friend but at six years old he didn't understand the seriousness of his action. Isn't it better to teach him that his actions were unacceptable? Instead of permanently affecting his future, wouldn’t it be more fruitful to educate the boy on what he did and how it was inappropriate.
Another instance in the news was Sam McNair, a seventeen year old boy gave his teacher a bear hug. He was punished with a yearlong suspension and the possibility of a delayed graduation and losing any college scholarships he might have earned. All of which would permanently affect his future.
Absolutely sexual harassment charges should be taken seriously no matter the age of the defendant. Maybe the law should redefine sexual harassment. Or rethink the penalties for the act based on the age of the defendant and prior actions. Should a six year old really be punished so harshly for kissing his friend on the hand? Should a high school teen be suspended for a year for hugging a teacher? It’s agreed that the teenager should have different consequences. He’s older and would be wiser about his actions.
Teachers are taught that they cannot have physical contact with their students. They also have to watch the language they use around their students. Using the wrong wording can be translated as something it wasn’t meant to be. The students also have to watch their words and actions. Long gone are the times when a teacher could console her students with a hug. It is no longer acceptable to have a child sit on your lap. That action could be misconstrued as something sexual. These rules don’t pertain only to the classroom. Everyone has to be cautious; at work, at school, at church, anywhere in public.
Everyone deserves to feel safe. They deserve to learn in an environment where they can become their best self. They deserve to be nurtured and cared for.