Schoolyard smooches no reason for child's suspension

Chad Strawderman
Arizona Daily Wildcat


A little kid with thick glasses and scraggly blonde hair got in a bit of trouble a couple weeks ago after his hormones got the best of him. Johnathan Prevette, a 6-year-old from Lexington, N.C., gave a girl a kiss on the cheek at school and was suspended for a day because of it.

The New York Times reported that the school released a statement saying the boy had been "punished not for violating the sexual harassment code, but instead for breaking a rule prohibiting 'unwarranted and unwelcome touching of one student by another.'"

But the school's principal told Mrs. Prevette that "he violated the sexual harassment policy." Mrs. Prevette said the principal gave her the policy and "proceeded to tell Johnathan what he did was wrong. If he was caught again kissing, hugging or hand-hol ding, he would be suspended."

Although federal education law requires schools to have sexual harassment policies, applying those to 6-year-olds is more than a bit ridiculous.

Did the school ever define for Johnathan what "unwarranted and unwelcome touching" referred to? Did the school have a mandatory homeroom class in sexual harassment law? Was Johnathan required to sign a form informing him of what exactly he could and could n't do with his lips? Basically, he was punished for violating a policy he knew nothing about.

Johnathan's suspension was an illustration of how easy it is to apply rules to the point of ludicrousy. Sure, his case may be isolated, but what happened to him is a dangerous precursor to what can happen when ivory tower ideals are taken to the edge.

It would be understandable if an adult was punished for such an act, and really, there should be no reason that the girl Johnathan kissed should not be guaranteed the same right to privacy as a 30-year-old, but the fact remains that he is 6. Age, in this case, is an excuse.

"He's not an adult. They're 6-year-old kids, two babies kissing each other," Mr. Prevette said.

Where will political correctness, this societal bane that continues to erode sincerity's soul, end? Having diaper commercials showing babies of different races crawling around in perfect harmony was pushing it, but suspending a kid for kissing someone? Do school officials realize what message they're sending their students - "Don't be affectionate, or we'll suspend you."

The incident is a cogent illustration of how society is becoming more and more detached from personal interaction. Telephones, fax machines and the Internet brought this detachment to one level, and now, sexual harassment laws applied in cases where they don't belong bring it to another. They downplay the need for personal interaction, and profess that we don't need hugs or kisses or anything of the sort. "Don't kiss me, or I'll sue" is the law's dangerous subtext.

Now what? Will 6-year-olds who give kisses automatically be suspended for affectionate acts. Will people no longer follow the advice, "Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" and no longer kiss without first getting permission? Will t oddlers be required to sign pre-playroom agreements before they play duck-duck-goose just in case a little tyke accidentally touches a playmates' goose?

I can see it now. Boys and girls playing together...mass hysteria.

This entire thing is quite depressing. It illustrates the extreme of paranoia, the backfiring of political correctness. It is proof that society is becoming afraid of affection, afraid of its implications, afraid that a kiss automatically means sex should follow. When was a kiss just a kiss, or was it ever that way?

Lexington's mayor, Richard Thomas, opposed how Johnathan Prevette's case was handled and eloquently stated the solution: "It would seem to be a policy gone awry. The only thing to do is to step forward, admit the policy is flawed, correct it and move on."

Adam Djurdjulov is a journalism senior. His column, 'Airing it Out,' appears Mondays.