Keep the cops out of kiss chase
When are a school’s disciplinary measures not enough to deal with an errant child? When must a teacher forego their own authority and call the cops? Well, in a school in Maryland, USA, apparently it’s after a game of kiss chase breaks out.
Last week, a 13-year-old at Pikesville Middle School was given a sexual-assault charge by the police after he kissed a female pupil without her consent on a dare. It was no peck on the cheek, either; the boy grabbed the girl by the shirt and went in tongue first. But while this was probably a bit gross for the young girl, it was hardly sexual assault.
Indeed, being charged with assault at such a young age, and for such a minor infraction, is likely to be a much more frightening and unpleasant experience than anything the girl endured. Imagine how terrifying it must have been for the kid to see the police car pull up outside his school. This was a terrible thing to do to a child.
Furthermore, by trivialising sexual assault in this way, the teachers concerned are sending the wrong message to these children. This poor boy is being taught that cheeky, inappropriate behaviour is a matter for the police rather than teachers or parents to resolve. In addition, the girl is receiving early instruction in the culture of victimhood. She is being taught that the predatory impulses of young men are always bubbling under the surface, and that, rather than stand up for herself, she should report any unpleasant incident to the authorities. This narrative dictates that no infringement is too minor for a formal complaint to be made, or even an arrest warrant to be issued.
The playfulness (and awkwardness) that characterises teenage interactions are increasingly being cast into suspicion. But let’s be clear: this boy was just being a 13-year-old boy. These things happen. He should have been told that his behaviour was unacceptable and inappropriate. Perhaps he should have been given some lines (if that still happens). Involving the police in such an insignificant matter speaks to the chronic hysteria surrounding sexual assault today, which now seems to mean any impropriety that has a vaguely sexual element.
Kiss chase, dares and botched romantic overtures are all part of the process of growing up. By clamping down on such behaviour we will only make children more fearful of one another and unable to negotiate their own lives. This kid should have received a slap or a detention, not a visit from the cops.
Stefan Rhys-Williams is a writer based in London.