I’ve been meaning to blog about this story out of McMinnville, Oregon, for quite some time, but I haven’t because it makes me so angry and because anger tends to make me verbose, I just haven’t had time.  There is a lot more to the story than the above linked article includes, but in a nutshell, two seventh-grade boys in McMinnville are being prosecuted for swatting girls’ bottoms at their school.  Originally the the district attorney, Bradley Berry, charged them with several felony counts of sex abuse.  They were arrested, went to jail (enduring the attendant humiliations thereof, e.g. strip searches), and hauled into court in shackles.  The felony charges have since been dropped, but there are still several misdemeanor sex abuse charges against them, all imprisonable and registerable offenses–“registerable” meaning that they would be required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. 

My first question here is “What the hell goes on in McMinnville?”  Not actual sex abuse, apparently, because they obviously have enough time on their hands to pursue frivolous cases like this one.  Now, I don’t believe schools should look the other way while the boy students slap the buttocks of the girl students.  Buttocks should not be swatted with impunity on school grounds.  That’s just inappropriate.  Such behavior should be subject to discipline of the school and the parental variety.  Any chuckling thereover should be done privately and with due discretion.  But seriously, folks–sex abuse?  Criminal investigation?  Prison time?  Lifetime sex-offender registry?  Really?

I can appreciate the embarrassment and discomfort suffered by a girl whose bottom was touched without her express permission.  Goodness knows I hope to raise my own sons with a greater sense of decorum and chivalry.  I also don’t want any punks slapping my girls’ butts, whether they ask for it or not.  But I also don’t want to raise any of my children in a world that confuses immature, hormone-informed horseplay among children with sex abuse.  My husband has already informed me that if this had been the environment when he was growing up, he would be rotting in prison.  Nothing my husband tells me about his youth gives me particular hope for the future.  But I digress. 

DA Berry says that his office takes sexual abuse of children very seriously, but this can’t possibly be true.  If it were true, he’d be spending some taxpayer dollars putting actual predators behind bars instead of prosecuting two ill-mannered teenage boys.  (For what it’s worth, this informally-organized “Butt-Slap Day” had male and female participants slapping one another’s butts, but all of the alleged victims, i.e. those who complained about said butt-slapping, were female.)  He wouldn’t be forcing them to undergo psychosexual evaluations, characterizing them as perverts for engaging in behavior that, while rude and undesirable, falls well within the boundaries of normal for adolescent boys. 

I’m not trying to excuse what the boys did.  What I think is especially sad is that instead of being able to use this incident as an opportunity to give their sons some lessons in gentlemanly deportment, the parents have been forced to defend them and their actions against overzealous prosecution.  What will the boys learn from this experience, except that they are the victims?  Probably they won’t be slapping any more girls’ butts, but most likely their restraint will be due less to an enhanced respect for others’ personal space than an appreciation of, and resentment over, the fact that they are helpless at the hands of nutjobs in high places. 

* This case is scheduled to have a hearing this afternoon, at which time the remaining charges could possibly be dropped.