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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sexual Harassment Hysteria in Lower Education, Part 2

In Part One of Sexual Harassment Hysteria in Lower Education, we covered numerous examples of overreactions to accusations of sexual harassment, and the damage caused to boys in the process. In this post on The War on Male Students, we will cover more cases of boys being subjected to heavy-handed labels and punishments, as well as the roots of the current hysteria.

Now this one isn’t sexual harassment per se, but I do believe it merits attention. It is part of a continuum, you might say, on how our schools treat men and boys accused of sexual misconduct. And that continuum too often ranges from indifference to hostility. Here we have the administrator taking on the role of a corrupt prosecutor, attempting to bargain down the charges so he can snag the boy with whatever he can.

A 2011 online article by Channel 3000, a CBS affiliate, says, in “MADISON, Wis. - A 6-year-old Grant County boy has been accused of first-degree sexual assault after playing "doctor" with two 5-year-old friends. Now, a federal lawsuit has been filed against the prosecutor, who attorneys said is trying to force the boy to admit guilt. “The boy's parents had planned to speak with WISC-TV on Monday to discuss the emotional toll the prosecution has taken on their son. But the prosecutor, Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker, on Monday morning asked a judge for a gag order in the case and was granted it. The gag order prohibits the boy's parents from talking about the case. But the attorneys for the parents in the federal suit, which names Riniker as a defendant, can aren't included in the gag order, and they spoke with WISC-TV from Chicago.

“Attorneys for the parents of the 6-year-old, who is being referred to as ‘D,’ said that Riniker has gone too far by bringing a felony sex charge against a first-grader for touching a 5-year-old girl inappropriately while playing doctor last fall. ‘That behavior by a prosecutor is outrageous,’ said Christopher Cooper, an attorney for the boy's parents. Cooper and attorney David Sigale filed the federal suit last week, alleging that Riniker wants D to sign a consent decree admitting some level of guilt.

"’We're certainly hoping to vindicate D in the eyes of the law,’ Sigale said. ‘He says he didn't do it, and the little girl says he didn't do it. The little girl says he touched the back of one of her buttocks,’ Cooper said. The attorneys are also asking for about $12 million in damages from Riniker and two co-defendants. Cooper and Sigale said they are prepared to present evidence that D has been psychologically harmed by the court proceedings and is terrified of going to jail.

"’[District Attorney] Riniker bypassed the parents and sent a 6-year-old boy a summons, on which is a threat that the 6-year-old will go to jail for failure to appear,’ Cooper said. The attorneys said they have sought the opinion of many experts who said that children ‘playing doctor’ is not a sex crime. ‘(The experts say) a 6-year-old child is unable to intellectually and emotionally associate sexual gratification with the act that D has been accused of committing,’ Cooper said. In justification for the charge, Riniker is quoted in the lawsuit saying ‘the Legislature could have put an age restriction in the statute ... the legislature did no such thing.’”

Randy Castro
A 2008 article in the Washington Post titled “For Little Children, Grown-Up Labels as Sexual Harassers,” tells us this story: “In his seven years, Randy Castro has been an aspiring soccer player, an accomplished Lego architect and a Royal Ranger at his Pentecostal church. He also, according to his elementary school record, sexually harassed a first-grade classmate. During recess at his Woodbridge school one day in November, when he was 6, he said, he smacked the classmate's bottom. The girl told the teacher. The teacher took Randy to the principal, who told him such behavior was inappropriate. School officials wrote an incident report calling it 'Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive,' which will remain on his student record permanently. Then, as Randy sat in the principal's office, they called the police. 'I thought they were going to take me to prison,' Randy said recently. 'I was scared.'"

While we should all support discipline for this kind of behavior in some form, is it really necessary to call the police and potentially lead a 6-year-old boy away in handcuffs for a one-time offense of spanking someone on the rear end?

The article continues: “Randy is only one of many children to be dealt with harshly as schools across the country grapple with enforcing new zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies and the fear of litigation. The Virginia Department of Education reported that 255 elementary students were suspended last year for offensive sexual touching, or 'improper physical contact against a student.' In Maryland, 166 elementary school children were suspended last year for sexual harassment, including three preschoolers, 16 kindergartners and 22 first-graders, according to the State Department of Education. Statistics for the District were not available.”

And to make sure we are all seeing the gravity of this, that’s 255 suspensions of elementary students. Not lower education in general. Not middle school. Not high school. Just elementary students, just for one state, and just for one year. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics tells us that boys are twice as likely to be suspended and three times as likely to be expelled as girls. How many of those suspensions and expulsions are due to overreactions that are labeled sexual harassment? And when such heavy-handed punishments are dealt out to boys during those years when their hearts and minds are the most vulnerable and formative, how can we expect them to not be jarred by the experience? A report from The National Education Association tells us that 75% of those with learning disabilities are boys. How many academic problems spring from behavioral and psychological problems that are compounded when we treat boys in such a heavy-handed fashion?

The article continues: “In 2006, a kindergartner in Hagerstown, Md., was accused of sexual harassment after pinching a female classmate's buttocks. A 4-year-old in Texas was given an in-school suspension after a teacher's aide accused him of sexual harassment for pressing his face into her breasts when he hugged her."

And on page two of the article, going back to the story of Randy: “Claudia Castro, a preschool teacher in Alexandria, said she was shocked when officials at Randy's school called to say that he was in trouble and that they were calling the police. She later met with the principal and assistant principal. 'I told them that what he did was not appropriate. And I have talked to him about it. What I don't understand is how you can make a police report on a 6-year-old. But the principal told me that they were making reports to the police every single day.

“Mary Kay Sommers, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, said suspensions and calls to the police in such cases are overkill. The correct response, she said, would be to explore whether the behavior is linked to abuse and to teach students about respecting peers and what constitutes ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch.’ 'There's no way these children understand what's going on. But it's been taken out of our hands. That's the difficult moral dilemma that we face,’ Sommers said. She blamed two Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s that enable suits against school districts for failing to stop sexual harassment as well as zero-tolerance policies aimed at middle and high school students that are applied to students as young as 5.

"Since November, Randy has been calling himself a ‘bad boy,’ his mother said. Castro said school officials rejected her appeal to remove the sexual harassment incident from Randy's permanent file. And now she worries that they have branded him a troublemaker.”

Yes – he is now labeled. And labels, especially those imposed publicly and by authority figures, tend to stick. I hope these cases illustrate not only the fundamental problems with sexual harassment policy, but also the culture that boys are facing in education.

In 2010, a Duke University student named Karen Owens catalogued her sexual encounters with 13 members of Duke's athletic team in the form of a PowerPoint presentation titled "An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal activities" (article here). She ranked them by numerous criteria, among them "“Size – points were determined based on the length and girth of the Subjects’ hardware.”

If you're a man or woman and want to have sex with a hundred men or a hundred women, that’s none of my business, so long as you’re not spreading any diseases along the way. What I do care about is how society responds differently based on who they are. So what happens when a male student does the same thing as Karen Owens?

A news article in Chicago tells us: On May 10th, 2011: “A male former student police believe was responsible for creating and circulating an offensive list ranking females on their appearance was arrested and is being charged with disorderly conduct, Oak Park police said Tuesday. “The 17-year-old former Oak Park and River Forest High School student, who police and school officials are not identifying because he is a minor, was arrested at his Oak Park home Monday night and was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The charges were levied with cooperation from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Oak Park police said there will not be any additional charges. The teen is accused of handing out hard copies of the list Jan. 14 at various lunch periods and posting a copy online, according to police.

“The teenager is believed to be responsible for a list that ranked 50 female students — using racial slurs and ratings of body parts — that circulated around the school and on Facebook, police said. The teen is accused of handing out hard copies of the list Jan. 14 at various lunch periods and posting a copy online, according to police.

“School officials were mum on disciplinary proceedings, but said the student no longer attends OPRF. In response, teachers and students started a campaign against sexism, selling T-shirts that read 'Respect.'”

Now the use of racial slurs is wrong. What I will address is the response by the schools on the issue of gender. So here we go: when a woman publicly ranks men according to the size of their genitals and their performance in bed, the reaction is “you go girl,” and a Feminist regards it as an act of empowerment. But when a man does the same, Feminist teachers organize what they call “a campaign against sexism,” and sell T-Shirts reading “Respect,” which sounds all fine and dandy until you realize that in the social and political context of this day and age, they’re not talking about respecting women; what they’re really talking about respecting is double standards. Luckily, though, some women are able to see through the bs, as you'll see in the video.

When the story of Karen Owens broke, a Duke sociologist professor Philip Morgan commented on the story, saying: "It's a girl basically bragging the way boys bragged when the double standard was in full effect. It's a story about sex, and it's a story about gender." But ranking partners according to the size of their genitals is more than just bragging. If the sexes were reversed, sociologist Philip Morgan, as well as others in the academy, would indeed tell us that it is a story about gender – a story of sexual harassment based on gender. It wouldn't be framed as mere “immodesty,” but as sexually predatory behavior.

by Daphne Patai
But how exactly is a male student supposed to know what is objectionable when the definitions are so vague? A dissenting Feminist professor named Daphne Patai wrote a book called Heterophobia, which speaks at length on sexual harassment in education. In this book she cites the litmus test that is cited by administrators in schools across the West: “Because such behavior is likely to be high risk, if you have to ask [whether it is offensive], it is probably better not to do it” (21). What is so often lost in the definition of sexual harassment is that there is a difference between behavior that is immodest and behavior that is predatory. Or as Daphne Patai says in her book, “there is a long distance between objecting to the intolerable and demanding the comfortable” (28).

And when we observe the enforcement of sexual harassment policy for what it is – with its extremely broad and vague definitions, and with its “better safe than sorry” approach to behavior most people consider trivial and nonthreatening - it becomes clear that sexual harassment is not really about “harassment” per se (which often involves things like intimidation and coercion), but rather is really about making women as comfortable - which in some cases is to say as pampered - as possible.

The ideology behind sexual harassment comes, of course, from Feminism. The 1998 “Issues Report” by the National Organization for Women, the biggest Feminist lobbying organization in the US, states: “Sexual harassment is a form of violence against women, used to keep women ‘in their place.’” Here we encounter the standard Feminist hysteria where words in and of themselves are equated with physical brutality.

Dissenting Feminist Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers says on page 53 of the War on Boys, “Groups such as the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund have been successfully lobbying the federal government to impose strict harassment codes on the schools. In August 1996, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a 26-page guideline on the subject of ‘peer harassment.’ No age limits were specified. Rooting out schoolyard harassers is now a prime objective of the Department of Education.”

The War Against Boys,
by Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers
She goes on to say on page 53, “A similar curriculum guide, Girls and Boys Getting Along: Teaching Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Elementary Classroom, was also funded by the Department of Education. This 144-page curriculum includes a special anti-harassment/self-esteem-building pledge for second- and third-graders." She gives us an example:

“I pledge to do my best to stop sexual harassment,
I will show RESPECT, by caring for myself and others;
I have dignity and will give it to others;
I am special, you are special, and we are all equal.”

But do second graders who are made to recite these pledges really know what they are talking about when they talk about sexual behavior? If the lines between offensive and inoffensive are so often indecipherable for an adult, how can we expect boys as young as age 6 to do an equal or better job? On page 47 of The War on Boys, dissenting Feminist and professor Christina Hoff-Sommers tells us, “Leaders in the equity movement [that is to say, the Feminist movement] take a very dim view of errant boys, speaking with straight faces about schoolyard harassers as tomorrow’s batterers, rapists, and murderers.” Among others, she quotes Sue Sattel, a self-described “equity specialist” with the Minnesota Department of Education, who says “Serial killers say they started harassing at age 10…they got away with it and went from there.”

Hoff-Sommers goes on to say, “Nan Stein, a director at the Wellesley College Center for research on Women and a major figure in the movement to get anti-harassment programs into the nation’s elementary schools, has referred to little boys who chase girls in the playground and flip their skirts as ‘perpetrators’ committing acts of ‘gendered terrorism.’” Do we seriously believe that the act of a 9 year-old boy calling his teacher “cute” is a gateway to him becoming a serial killer? If a boy “gets away with” hugging his teacher out of gratitude for breaking up a fight, is he much more likely to commit domestic violence? What about a 6-year-old boy who sings “I’m sexy and I know it?” Is that a good indicator for his proclivity to rape later in life? Somehow I doubt it.

One of the best ways to raise our consciousness of sexism against men and boys is to simply reverse the sexes and look at how it comes across. It could also be said that women who lie about rape as adults tended to lie about trivial things as girls, when they learned they could get away with it. Should we then treat little girls who lie about small things as future false rape accusers? Is it really justified to look upon even moderately offensive behavior by girls under such a lens? I don’t think so.

Hoff-Sommers says on page 50 of The War on Boys: “None of these things would be of much moment if the zealous women promoting these views were not a major force in American education. Schools have to listen to Hanson, Stein, Sattel, and their colleagues to avoid running afoul of complicated federal laws concerning sex equity.” Whenever parents see 6-year-old boys being punished for sexual harassment, they exclaim, “he’s too young to even know what being sexual is; how can he possibly be guilty of sexual harassment?” They naively think that it is an accident or oversight. But it isn’t. It is the result of a deliberate, concerted, and effort of increasingly radicalized reforms pushed by a few narrow-minded ideologues who have spent so much time cloistered within the ivory tower, and for so long have had no one to challenge their worldview, that they are now disconnected from the real world. It is also a result of the pervasive cowardice of education administrators who are more afraid of political inconvenience than they are driven to doing what is right.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m going to be a critical of the actions of certain Feminists and Feminist organizations. I will refrain from making many broad generalizations about Feminism, and I will quote the good Feminists who I believe are the exceptions. I’ve already done so here by quoting professors Christina Hoff-Sommers and Daphne Patai. I would like to stress that the problem is not just a few misandric apples in the Feminist bunch who have achieved positions of influence over education. The problem is also the self-serving cowardice and careerism of administrators and faculty who either enforce these extremist policies against the warnings of their own conscience, or who see others doing so and fail to speak out. The fact remains that no matter how draconian sexual misconduct policies become, administrators still have a choice as to whether they will adopt or enforce them. In his “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “One has a moral responsibility to obey just laws; conversely, one also has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” There are an abundance of people in education who claim – claim – to uphold the ideals of equality and justice. But when it is our sons against whom unjust policies are directed, all of those champions for equality and social justice are often nowhere to be found. And this holds true, regardless as whether it is a civil rights issue like sexual harassment, or whether it is an issue of educational attainment.

In the case of the 6-year-old boy being suspended for singing, The Morning Show spoke of the general culture of education as "too politically correct." But what is political “correctness” exactly? And if how it is employed so often seems to be wrong, why do we call it “correct” in the first place? In page 57 of The War Against Boys, Dr. Hoff-Sommers quotes the words of a high school teacher named Martin Spafford, who says, “Boys feel continually attacked for who they are. We have created a sense in school that masculinity is something bad. Boys feel blamed for history, and a school culture has grown up which is suspicious and frightened of boys.”

In education, we have swung the pendulum from a time when we had no protection, to the point that we are now overprotective. Policy on sexual harassment, just like policy on domestic violence and rape, is premised upon the idea of protecting women and girls from harm by men and boys. But when these policies become radicalized, we might benefit from an alternative perspective. In Vancouver, Canada, there is a poster campaign that I believe captures the essence of this perspective.

The posters read:

“You don’t fear and hate African Americans, do you? No, because you are a decent human being.

You don’t fear and hate Jews, do you? Of course not, because you are a decent human being.

You don’t fear and hate gays and lesbians, do you? Of course not, because you are a decent human being.

You don’t fear and hate women do you? No, because you are a decent human being.

You don’t fear and hate men, do you?

Do you?

Whoever controls the language controls the argument. We need a new language and a new word to address this phenomenon. Don’t call it political “correctness.” Call it misandry - sexism against men and boys.


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    1. I think you're on to something. In Heterophobia, Daphne Patai also talks about the reluctance of Feminists to draw distinctions between lesser and greater forms of abuse/harassment. If these rules were ever clear cut, then the jig would be up. But no, men and boys have to tiptoe and walk on eggshells to avoid causing a (possibly histrionic) woman any discomfort.

    2. Specifically here are the facts:

      For ANY PERSON to get together with another person (including forming a gay couple) you have to go through some steps such as

      - first fleeting touch
      - first decrease of physical distance
      - first more intimate eye-gazing
      - first more intimate touch
      - (or) first sexual innuendo
      - first asking the person for an intimate encounter

      Feminists REFUSE to define what is the right way or time or place or way to do these things. In other words they refuse to write a list that says:

      "If you have interacted with a woman for more than 250 minutes and she has shown no discomfort in interacting with you, you may attempt an increase in eye-contact duration, increasing it from 5 to 15 seconds"

      "If a woman is fine with the increased eye-contact for more than 5 interactions, you may now attempt an innocuous friendly touch"

      "If you have had more than 5 innocuous touches with a woman and she has responded to each one of them favorably, you may attempt to make a distance decreasing move".

      Feminists say that if you make a touch too soon, gaze at her too long (etc)... you are a evil, despicable proto-rapist... But you're not allowed to know when "too soon" or how much eye-contact is "too much". In other words, you're supposed to "just know".

      But if you ask feminists how are you to know which woman prefers how and when and how much and under which conditions, they will shame you, ridicule you, mock you or tell you to buy blow up dolls. But they will REFUSE any CLEAR and SPECIFIC guidelines.

      They will tell you that you are an evolutionary despicable crap worthy of evolutionary extinction, but they will refuse to DEFINE any CLEAR, SPECIFIC guidelines.

      Why? Because they know no two women are the same. One woman expects you to make a move between 50 and 100 minutes of knowing her (and if you don't she writes you off as a wimp forever). Another woman is offended if you make a move in less than 5000 minutes of knowing her.

      And that is FINE - diversity is cool. Of course different women will have different preferences!!! So of course feminists can't write a list that says "you're allowed to touch a woman after 250 minutes of knowing her". BECAUSE DIFFERENT WOMEN PREFER DIFFERENT THINGS.

      But here's the issue then. If women PREFER different things, how is a man supposed to know what a PARTICULAR woman prefers? I and any sane human would argue that it is impossible to know.

      And if a man can't know a woman's preferences in advance, how can he be punished for breaking them?

      Feminists say "err on the side of caution" - as in, "sure some women prefer you get touchy feely on the first date, but to protect the discomfort of the women who prefer no touching until 10 dates have passed, err on the side of waiting till the 10th".

      Ok fine, but "caution" is an infinite amount. Some woman somewhere prefers a man get to know her as a friend for a minimum of 5 years before he even attempts a decrease in physical space. Sure, she might be one in a million, but where do we define "caution". Is it to the level of accomodating for the 1 in 100 woman? Is it accomodating for the 1 in 1000 woman? Is it accommodating for the 1 in billion woman?


      I honestly don't care if feminists say "err on the side of caution to where you must make sure a woman passes 675 tests of interest before you attempt to kiss her" AS LONG AS THEY DEFINE IT - put a NUMBER ON IT. Make it SPECIFIC.