Overreaction

Suspending a 6-year-old for song lyrics is excessive and trivializes a serious problem

It is often said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It would seem, however, that even a little power can have a devastating effect on good judgment.

Last Wednesday, school officials in the Denver suburb of Aurora suspended a 6-year-old first-grader for three days after the boy alledgedly recited inappropriate lyrics to a girl. The suspended student stands accused of sexual harassment for singing “I’m sexy, and I know it.”

For starters, the irony here is as thick as Aurora schools’ decision-makers. The song in question was recorded by a group named LMFAO, which Wikipedia describes as an “electro pop duo” that produces “party rock.” The Wikipedia entry says the group claims the initials in its name stand for “Loving my friends and others.” But LMFAO is more commonly employed as an Internet slang term curious readers can look up for themselves. For while a family newspaper can report the supposedly scandalous lyrics for which the boy was suspended, Herald policy forbids printing the words the band’s initials stand for.

That silliness aside, what were school officials thinking? A 6-year-old is certainly capable of acting in a way that would require parental involvement. And there are circumstances that might require suspension or some other serious intervention. But there has been no suggestion the boy had a weapon or was a threat to himself or others.

It is not even clear he was addressing a girl. His mother says he was just singing in the lunch line.

But assume he was directing his rendition toward a female classmate. Is that so bad? “I’m sexy and I know it” is not a particularly offensive phrase, even by grade-school standards.

Nor is it in itself sexual harassment. Not everything addressed to a member of the opposite sex constitutes sexual harassment; not even every bad or inappropriate thing. A student can be guilty of bullying or any number of other offenses without those necessarily being of a sexual nature.

That is particularly true of a prepubescent child. It is unlikely a 6-year-old boy has any meaningful understanding what sex is or means, let alone how it can be abused. Without that, where is there any criminal intent?

The idea that the boy could end up labelled a sexual offender is farfetched. Our legal system is better than that.

The greater danger is that a case such as this trivializes the idea of sexual harassment. It reinforces the notion that concern about sexual harassment is merely political correctness or feminism run amok. And that is no more fair to the little girls in our schools than Aurora school administrators seem to have been to that little boy.