Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve all heard about this case – the two 13-year-old boys in my neck of the woods, McMinnville, Oregon, who were arrested for swatting female classmates on the â€œbuttocksâ€, to quote the news articles. Let me just give you a quick rundown of the high points:
On February 22, 2007, the kids at Patton Middle School were having what they called â€œslap butt dayâ€. It was just what it sounds like – students were slapping each other on the butt. Girls were doing it, too, and more boys than just these two. Maybe not the most appropriate activity, but theyâ€™re 7th-graders! Itâ€™s about what you might expect. Right? No.
A teacherâ€™s aide saw these particular two boys slapping some girlsâ€™ behinds. And sent them to the vice-principalâ€™s office. There, they were interrogated for hours by the v-p, and a police officer, and finally were Mirandized, placed under arrest for felony sex abuse, and sent to juvie for 5 days. After two of the girls offered to testify in their defense, saying they felt pressured by the v-p and police officer to say that they were uncomfortable, and that it hurt, which simply wasnâ€™t true, the judge then sent the boys home. But they were not allowed to return to school last year. Or see their friends. They faced the prospect of 10 years of juvenile detention, and being registered sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
The charges were later reduced from felony to misdemeanor charges, but still they were going to court. It seems that Rhonda Pope, the mother of one of the girls – erm, â€œvictimsâ€ – feels the criminal charges were justified. She said,
â€œSlapping somebody on the butt is sexual harassment, and it is a crime. Considering what was going on and that my daughter was offended, it is a crime. And itâ€™s not OK.â€
Her daughter was offended? Itâ€™s a crime to be offensive? Granted, I can understand that she didnâ€™t like it. I donâ€™t know this girl, but itâ€™s possible she was just an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire. So maybe accept that the boys got suspended for 5 days, and move on with your life? No, I have a better idea. Letâ€™s try to get them sentenced as if they had forcibly raped her at knifepoint. I feel sorry for that girl. Mrs. Pope, or is it Ms. Pope, you are raising your daughter to be a victim, and I know thatâ€™s the exact opposite of what you want to do.
The case was scheduled to go to trial today, August 20, 2007. And guess what I saw in the newspaper? Breaking News! Charges Dismissed! Hereâ€™s the article from this morning:
By Susan Goldsmith The Oregonian MCMINNVILLE – A judge dismissed charges Monday against two the Patton Middle School teens accused of sexual harassment for swatting girls on the buttocks. Judge John L. Collins said he acted “in the interests of justice” after both prosecutors and the boys’ defense lawyers said four alleged victims had signed a civil compromise in the case, which drew national attention. The victims said they want to drop the charges.
The boys, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, 13, read statements of apology to a packed courtroom Monday. Some of the four alleged victims – teary eyed – were also present.
“Girls, if I offended you or your parents, I’m sorry,” Cornelison said. “I hope we still can be friends.”
Mashburn said: “I did not mean to offend you in any way. None of this is your fault.” The boys initially were charged with felony sexual abuse in February after a teacher’s aide saw them running down the hallway at Patton and grabbing or swatting girls in the buttocks.
In interrogations – later ruled inadmissible by the judge – the boys also admitted touching two girls in the breast. Those two girls were among the four who signed settlements.
Debra J. Markham, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, read letters in court Monday from some of the alleged victims and their parents. One girl wrote that she was sorry the boys had to go through the seven-month ordeal, which included five days in juvenile detention and suspension from school. She said she forgave them “100 percent.” Another girl wrote that “Cory and Ryan shouldn’t have been singled out” for prosecution because many kids at Patton also were swatting other students in the rear.
Susan Goldsmith: 503-294-5131; [url]firstname.lastname@example.org[/url]
Wow. Just in time. What is a â€œcivil compromiseâ€? Is there money involved? Any of you who feel moved, there is a place where you can leave comments. I left this one, but it has to be approved by the blog owner:
Isn’t that nice. Case dismissed. After half a year of fear and uncertainty for these two hormonally normal boys. They went to juvie, missed half a year of school, had their names in national news, got to think seriously about what it would be like to be registered sex offenders for the rest of their lives. The “victims” decided to drop the charges? How big of them. The one girl who wrote that she forgave them 100% – I don’t understand that. Yes, what they did was inappropriate, but haven’t they been through enough? They’ve been treated like criminals for a little horseplay. Horseplay, I might add, that when I was in school way back in the 70’s, wouldn’t have caused an eye to be batted.
This whole “women’s lib” thing has gone too far. We tell girls they can dress however they please, we encourage them to wear as little as possible and act provocatively, and then they get all offended and “victimized” by a slap on the behind? We can’t have it both ways. Either we’re strong, independent women, or we’re not. We can’t just decide which way we’re going to be as the mood takes us. That’s just arbitrary. It’s not wanting to be treated equally, it’s wanting to have our whims catered to. Are we princesses, or women?
Cases like this are becoming all too common. Our culture encourages this kind of over-reaction, and itâ€™s troubling. The following is from this article:
Click here for the link
Case disturbs experts
Tillery, Patton’s vice principal, said he was not authorized to comment. School district officials said Friday that they take sexual abuse seriously. “We followed our policy and set a five-day suspension,” the district superintendent said in a statement. “The district played no role in the legal proceedings that followed.” Roache, the McMinnville police officer, declined to discuss the case. His supervisor, Capt. Rob Edgell, would not discuss specifics but said, “We totally support everything that has gone on in this case.”
Outside experts contacted by The Oregonian found the circumstances unsettling.
While it’s true that a great deal of child sex abuse by adults goes undetected and unpunished, cases like the one in McMinnville reflect society’s tendency to overreact, said Richard Ofshe, author of “Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria.”
“The problem is that, like most good things, they can go to the extreme, and the extreme has been reached in several ways,” said Ofshe, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. “The whole question of what constitutes sexual abuse gets defined and redefined to the point where it’s absurd.”
It is difficult to quantify the number of children charged nationwide with sex crimes arising from misconduct in schools. According to the Department of Justice, juvenile crime has fallen steadily since 1998. Between that year and 2002, the only category of juvenile arrests that has grown is sex offenses other than forcible rape or prostitution. Those arrests have risen 9 percent.
What this says to me is that we are penalizing our kids for being kids. They – especially the boys – have to be on their constant guard to avoid offending anyone. They donâ€™t want to be marched off in handcuffs, after all.
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