Who are these school and public officials who cause very young children to be expelled from school or charged with very dubious felonies? And why the hell are they doing it? Are they just plain stupid, or do they have more complicated motives?
Meet Jerry Bostic, the (now former) principal of Brookside Elementary School in Gastonia NC. Earlier this month he suspended a 9-year-old black boy named Emanyea Lockett when the child was overheard by a substitute teacher telling a friend that he thought a certain teacher was “cute.”
“Putting aside that the kid is nine, when did telling a third party that someone is cute become ‘sexual harassment’?” asks Jonathan Turley, a leading legal expert and blogger.
“Amazingly, the school found it was sexual harassment and suspended the boy. The principal reportedly informed the mother that she has a sexual harasser in her midst…This strikes me as rather bizarre and another example of zero tolerance becoming zero judgment by school officials,” says Turley.
In a refreshing departure from standard procedure, school superintendent L. Revees McGlohon reportedly gave Bostic one hour to decide whether he would be fired or allowed to retire due to the firestorm of negative publicity his decision had brought to the school district. Bostic retired.
“Because of some syndicated columnist in New York or California, I don’t have a job,” Bostic complained. The story went viral with reports showing up on Fox News, CNN and the Huffington Post in addition to papers and blogs across the country.
“I made a mistake, but I’ve worked for Gaston County Schools for forty-four years and Reeves McGlohon could have cared less,” said Bostic. “One mistake in forty-four years, and I’m not given the benefit of the doubt.”
Only one mistake in so many years? In the light of this bone-headed move, that claim strains credulity.
Not to be outdone by Gastonia’s zero-tolerance lunacy, principal Eileen Morales of South Boston’s Joseph B. Tynan Elementary school launched an investigation of 7-year-old Mark Curran as a presumed “sexual harasser” because he kicked another boy in the crotch in a playground tussle.
Mark’s mother says that Mark kicked the other boy because the boy was bullying him and was choking him at the time of the kick. The school, however, insisted that the location of the kick made it a matter of suspected sexual harassment. Mark’s mom says that the official told her, “Your son kicked a little boy in the testicles. We call that sexual harassment.”
“For kids who have not even had sex ed, sexual harassment seems a rather unlikely motivation in a schoolyard squabble,” comments Jonathon Turley. “This seems like another case of zero thought by administrators.”
Oh, but here’s the topper. Grant County WI District Attorney Lisa Riniker has charged a 6-year-old boy with first-degree sexual assault, a Class B felony, for what the family says was playing doctor with a 5-year-old girl. Notably, the girl (and her brother who was also involved in the game) are the children of a powerful political figure in the county and were not charged.
If convicted, the boy would be forced to register as a sex offender when he is 18 and spend the rest of his life under the same restrictions imposed on rapists and child molesters.
Riniker rejects criticism that she is failing to apply not only discretion but reason. Instead, she says “the legislature could have put an age restriction in the statute if it wanted to. The legislature did no such thing.” What is astonishing is that Riniker appears to have maintained a willful blindness to the fact that she is prosecuting a toddler.
According to a lawsuit filed against her by the boy’s parents, Riniker was addressing and sending mail to the 6 year-old, rather than to the parents, and that she refers to the 6 year-old not by his first name but as “Mr._____.” Furthermore, she sends or causes to be sent to the 6 year-old paperwork that tells him that he could go to jail if he does not show up for court.
The boy suffers from ADHD, but neither his disability nor his age appears to matter to Riniker.
Faced with overwhelming criticism from lawyers and non-lawyers alike, Riniker went to Judge Bill Dyke in Iowa County WI and demanded a gag order. Dyke gave it to her but the order is not silencing the growing number of critics denouncing the case as an abuse of power.
“Perhaps there was something that made Riniker feel that the boy was culpable in this incident. However, to charge a toddler with felony sexual assault defies reason,” says Turley. “The use of a felony charge to force a child into supervision is an abuse of the criminal code in my view.”
In my view, and in the words of today’s song, it’s all so “Dumb, dumb, dumb.”
(BTW… I learned about all three of these cases on Jonathan Turley’s informative and entertaining website at: http://jonathanturley.org/. I encourage you to check out his site. I think you’ll love it!)
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