I am so sad for the children I am about to write about, but the adults who have responded to them make me angry at the unthinking way they responded, and also slightly nauseous because of the continuing emotional turmoil they are inflicting on the children. Here are a few facts that I know about, and I’ll try to be clear with the facts of the matter before I outline my outrage:
One week ago, in rural Louisiana, four students – ages 11 through 13 – had sex in an unsupervised classroom in front of their peers. They are being charged with obscenity, which is a felony, and a fifth student who stood as a look-out, will be charged as an accessory. They will be arraigned in Juvenile Court. More details are in the Washington Post.
My outrage at this train of events knows no bounds. A teacher was negligent in her job, leaving a group of 5th graders alone! She created the situation in which obscenity happened – if anyone is charged with a felony, it should be her! The people being charged are children! Children! Certainly, the two 11-year-old girls were. Because they were involving themselves in adult actions shows the unfathomable deficits in the adults around them, not in the children.
These children, simply by their age, necessarily have very little understanding of the depth and breadth of the issues involved with them having sex. These children, and maybe some of the other ones who were in the classroom, have indicated through their actions a serious need for counseling and inordinate amounts of attention from adults showered on them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for years! They need to be loved, to be shown what love is, to be held in the hopes that very careful and gentle love might possible, hopefully, allow them something of a safe space to heal their hearts, their souls, and their bodies. Not, of all things, to be arrested, to be judged, and to be punished with a FELONY! for their outrageously inappropriate sexual behavior that was clearly a group of children calling out desperately for help and attention from adults!
Of all of the stupid, inappropriate, harmful, and inexcusable reactions that I have ever heard of adults having in reaction to children or adolescents having sex, arresting them for a FELONY! is the absolute, dead-last, worst!
The common link that I see to problems of this magnitude is a desire to “react”, immediately, forcefully, generally punitively in an attempt to prevent anything like this from every happening again. But, people can not react to a single event in a way that will prevent millions of people from future similar actions unless they live a an successfully absolutely authoritarian based society. Individual events can only adequately be addressed with thoughtful behavior. Thoughtful behavior can only be accessed with emotional intelligence. The capacity to know your emotional state, the ability to make a good guess at the emotional states of others, the abilty to look at the root issues of a problem rather than the presenting symptoms only. The presenting symptoms matter, but can only be adequately addressed if the root issue is also addressed. This behavior by the students is shocking and very disturbing. Children should not be held to an adult standard for their behavior. If these children (and by implication every child in that classroom) are to become successful adults, they must receive thoughful treatment by adults at this time, not punishment.
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