First, the article -- then, my comment:
Sexual abuse reports at Central not cause for alarm, district says
By Shaun Hittle
April 7, 2009
More than 400 students arrive on the 1400 block of Massachusetts Street every school day to attend Central Junior High.
According to data obtained from the Lawrence Police Department, the block is also the location of 10 reported sexual assaults against children — the highest number of any single block in Lawrence — over the past five years.
Lawrence school district officials, however, say the numbers are not the cause for alarm they might appear to be and urge caution in reacting to the term “sexual assault.”
“That’s a scary term,” said district Communications Director Julie Boyle, one of several school officials who met with the Journal-World to discuss the incidents.
In examining the data, one offense was a “false report,” while another did not occur at the school and was erroneously coded by police, she said.
The remaining eight did occur at the school and Boyle described the circumstances of the incidents, which overall included the actions of four male students. Five of the reports involved inappropriate touching, while the other three involved one male student exposing himself to three female students.
Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. Bill Cory confirmed Boyle’s description of the offenses. Cory also said that of the eight cases, only one arrest was made.
While the school takes the complaints seriously, Superintendent Randy Weseman said it’s important to consider the environment and circumstances in a junior high when looking at the numbers.
“The data are irrelevant without the context,” he said.
Weseman, a former junior high principal, said that many incidents classified as sexual assaults pertain to situations in which students are not aware that their behavior is inappropriate and possibly criminal.
“For the people involved, they were serious,” said Weseman. But he said that such incidents are “probably not unusual for junior high kids.”
Robbie Derritt, who has a daughter in ninth grade at Central, said that he had not heard anything about the offenses at the school, but the behavior doesn’t surprise him.
“People do stupid stuff in junior high,” said Derritt. “You’re testing the boundaries.”
Derritt is co-leader of the Central Parent Group, and he said that no parents had expressed concerns to him about sexual assaults at the school and that he believes the school is safe for students.
Frank Harwood, who was principal at Central from 2006-2008 and is now the district’s director of technology, said junior high-age students are still learning how to behave in unsupervised settings and are in the process of maturing.
“They don’t understand how to interact,” said Harwood, adding that his biggest concern is incidents that don’t get reported because the school can’t appropriately intervene.
When it is reported, schools have an opportunity to educate students about what is, and what is not, appropriate behavior.
“It’s a teaching moment,” said Weseman.
Once reports of a sexual assault reach school officials, the school resource officer, a Lawrence police officer stationed in the school, is notified and responsible for filing the police report.
The parents of the students involved are notified, and an e-mail is sent to the school board, the superintendent’s office and to the Journal-World, Boyle said.
Depending on the results of the investigation, school officials decide which actions to take.
Harwood said that in some cases, the threat of legal action is helpful in working with parents who might minimize or deny their child’s behavior.
“Making a police report raises the bar for parents,” said Harwood. The goal of such intervention, he said, is “helping students who are victims and well as helping students who were suspects.”
Of the 21 public elementary, junior high and high schools in the district, Central Junior High is located on the only block where more than two sexual assault cases were reported.
Weseman said that the higher number of reports at Central might be attributed to reporting differences in the individual schools. In such offenses, he said, there are “layers of discretion” in regard to how school officials and the particular school resource officer report offenses.
He said that he did not believe the number differences were due to any particular demographic factors or the environment at Central, and that in his experience such incidents occur in all socioeconomic classes.
“We see this across the board,” said Weseman.
Harwood said that the intervention efforts in the school have been successful in reducing further incidents and protecting the students in the school.
“Once there was a report, there weren’t any repeat offenders,” Harwood said. “We made sure we did everything we could to protect others at the school.”
The efforts by the school, he said, create an environment where students sometimes feel more secure than in other settings in their lives.
With all due respect, this article is a microcosm of many of the things wrong with the hysterical culture in which we find ourselves stranded.
First, I note in passing that the unequivocal assertion that eight of the ten reported "sexual assaults" did, in fact, occur is astounding, given that only one arrest was made of the eight and that one, and only one, student presumably was afforded his due process rights to determine if, in fact, the incident for which he was charged actually occurred. It is breathtaking how someone can absolutely, for-a-fact "know" that eight sexual assaults actually occurred.
Second, and more to the point, branding what might very well be typical junior high school juvenile interaction as "sexual assault" trivializes the experience of women, and men, who have been victims of actual sexual assault. Young teens engage in all manner of teasing and juvenile horseplay that is not intended to hurt, and does not hurt, its "victims." The purveyors of this conduct often reasonably construe their horseplay as welcome. Girls do it to boys, too, but boys are loathe to report such conduct, as are most girls. But even discussing this garden-variety teen behavior in the same context as sexual assault where, for example, young women are drugged and raped, is an affront to common sense and trivializes real victimization. It is also a sad manifestation of an hysterical culture that sees sex crimes oozing from every crevice -- a culture where men are criminally charged for doing nothing more than taking family pictures of their own children playing at a playground, and where the majority of men in one poll say they simply won't personally help a crying child for fear of being branded a sex offender. They'll call for someone else to help. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we've come to.
Perhaps worst of all, branding this childish conduct "sexual assault" inappropriately tells the young females who were the recipients of the male attention that they have been victimized by sex predators whose conduct is akin to rape. This, in turn, only encourages the "victims" to view every young man with suspicion, as a rapist-in-waiting. Is it any wonder when they thereafter misconstrue innocent male advances as assaults?
Is it any wonder that false rape claims have reached epidemic proportions?
Yes, the conduct described is inappropriate. In the pre-hysterical old days, before parents morphed into constipated Chicken Littles running around checking to make sure that "no boy has his vile paws on my princess," there was a way to deal with mildly risqué horseplay -- it was called "detention." It worked then, and it could still work today if the fear mongers would only calm down and stop inventing rapists out of normal boys.