Tuesday, November 23, 2004


The Queensland Government has ordered an investigation into why a six-year-old boy was suspended from school after being accused of sexual harassment. The Year 1 student was sent home this week after he poked a female classmate on the bottom. The one-day suspension sparked outrage with parents angry at what they saw as extremely harsh punishment for the youngster. Queensland's Parents and Citizens Council said it was political correctness gone mad with school officials exhibiting a "knee-jerk reaction" out of fear the victim's parents might sue.

The boy spent Monday at home following the incident at Kimberley Park State School, in Brisbane's south, the previous Friday. After the six-year-old girl complained to a teacher, the boy confirmed he had touched her on the bottom, on the outside of her clothes. Principal Annette Murray deemed the boy's behaviour as sexually inappropriate and handed out the suspension. "Everyone has the right to feel safe at school and the only way that's going to happen is to make sure all children keep their hands and feet to themselves," Ms Murray said.

But the boy's parents - who asked not to be identified - accused the school of over-reacting. "It's just ridiculous," the boy's shocked mother said yesterday. "It's over the top. "They are implying my son is some little sex monster. He is nothing of the sort. He is just a normal little boy. "Sex and six-year-olds do not go together. He has no concept of sex . . . my son knows that you don't touch a girl's or boy's private parts." The mother said to suggest his actions had sexual connotations was mind-boggling.

The victim's mother agreed. She sent a letter to the other family on Friday saying there had been no physical or mental harm done to her daughter and the touch had been innocuous. The boy's mother said: "I have been in contact with her every day. She's fine. She said her daughter had forgotten about the matter." The family had received dozens of calls of support from the school community. They welcomed news that State Education Minister Anna Bligh had intervened in the case. "I just want my son's name cleared," his father said.

Ms Bligh said principals had a responsibility to "maintain the good order of their school" but she expressed some reservations about the boy's punishment. "While suspensions are a valid disciplinary measure, I can understand that some parents may have concerns about the value of suspending Year 1 students," she said. "Therefore, I have asked the department to examine the circumstances surrounding this case." Ms Bligh had requested the investigation report be filed with her as soon as possible.

The boy's mother said she was first told by a school official that her son had "hurt" another student. Her son was then given the telephone to explain his actions to her. "I asked him what had happened and he said, 'I don't know, I just poked her on the bum'. He said all the children had been mucking around. My son would never do anything to intentionally hurt another child." The mother was particularly angry that a school official had drawn a picture of a naked person and asked the boy to point on the diagram where he had touched the girl.

Ms Murray told the Albert and Logan News that the boy's age was irrelevant. She said the suspension gave the family an opportunity to discuss why it was not appropriate to touch girls in personal places. But P and C state president Wanda Lambert said it was inappropriate to banish a child who probably did not understand what the fuss was about. "This reflects society today . . . this over-reaction, all for the sake of political correctness," she said. "People are jumping the gun rather than investigating something properly." Ms Lambert said the school would have been better calling in both children and parents to discuss the incident before handing out the punishment. "We don't want children as young as that suspended every time they do something wrong," she said.



A lot of what is true of Dodgeball could be said of many sports

The high-energy school yard game of dodgeball is getting kicked around a New York courtroom, where questions are being raised about whether it's just too dangerous for young children to play. This week, a New York state Appellate Division panel refused to dismiss a lawsuit that claims a school wronged a 7-year-old girl who broke her elbow while playing dodgeball. State and national education officials say what makes the case unique is that the lawsuit doesn't fault the school for poor supervision - but for allowing children that young to play at all.

The new challenge comes as the game is flourishing as a trendy adult activity; the obsession was the comic focus of a movie starring Ben Stiller. But the game is also being targeted as unfair, exclusionary, and warlike for school-age youngsters. Some schools in Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts and Utah have banned dodgeball or its variations, including war ball, monster ball and kill ball. "Dodgeball is not an appropriate activity for K-12 school physical education programs," according to The National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a nonprofit professional organization of 20,000 physical education teachers, professors, coaches, athletic directors and trainers. Dodgeball provides "limited opportunities for everyone in the class, especially the slower, less agile students who need the activity the most."

New York's case began in the fall of 2001. Seven-year-old Heather Lindaman was playing a variation of dodgeball in gym class on a hardwood court. The version included several balls and no safety or protection zone to run from the thrown balls. Heather became tangled with another child and fell, breaking her elbow. Her lawyer, Philip Johnson, said the injury required surgery and there is a continuing concern her injured arm might not grow as long as her other arm because a growth plate may have been affected. The New York appellate judges upheld a lower court ruling that the school district's request for summary dismissal of the case, without trial, should be denied. They said there is an argument to be heard about whether this version of dodgeball "was particularly dangerous for younger children." The judges found some merit in the family's expert witness, Steve Bernheim, a recreational and educational safety authority. The judges wrote: "While there are no established standards of age appropriateness for dodgeball, it is recognized as a potentially dangerous activity and has been banned by several school districts in New York and elsewhere."

More here


If this underemployed and overpaid whiner went to an Islamic country, she would find out what REAL censorship of "sex and gender issues" is like

A leading US gender studies expert claims post-election political conservatism in Australia and the US could hinder academic freedom to explore important sex and gender issues, including abortion. Joan Nestle, archivist for the American lesbian "herstory" archives, will deliver a keynote address at a symposium on "Sex in History" for the History Department at the University of Melbourne.

Ms Nestle is particularly concerned that the current political climate in both Australia and the US will challenge the unfettered ability of academic researchers to explore issues about sex in history, and the way ideas about sexuality influence the present. "Work on sex and history is one of the most exciting, challenging and revelatory fields of enquiry that is available" she says. "Contrary to some beliefs it is truly a study of the dignity of all human beings".

But she says recent comments made by Australia's Cardinal Pell about pornography and abortion being signs of decadent democracy are examples of a growing threat to scholarly freedom and independence. In defence of academic exploration of these and similar topics Ms Nestle says "there are new territories every day being opened up to discussion of how sex matters in all the important functions of our society, including the health and vitality of democracy."


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