October 11, 1996 · Cavalier Daily

Cootie Alert: Harassment on the Playground

This article responds with ironic humor to an incident in which a 6-year old in New York was suspended from school for kissing a female classmate. The writer uses her kindergarten-age brother's crush on a female classmate to illustrate satirically that she does not believe the incident constitutes gender-based harassment given the perpetrator's age, and that suspension is too severe a punishment.


1996-10-11 Cavalier Daily Cootie Alert Harassment on the Playground.pdf
Masha Herbst
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Cootie Alert: Harassment on the Playground
UP UNTIL now, I have used my weekly block of newsprint to take the reader on a journey of jest through the ridiculous and inconsequential. My comic interludes are well-received by the public, but this week I chose to do something a little different, and confront a real issue head-on. After some careful consideration, I decided to take a look at sexual harassment in our schools.
I am not talking about the very real problem of date rape in colleges and universities, but rather the more pressing concern of teaching America’s youth to respect one another. The media loves this story almost as much as it loves O.J. Simpson – it seems that some lecherous six-year-old took the cooties game a little too far. A first-grade boy in new York actually had the nerve to plant a kiss on one of his female playmates. And, as if that were not frightening enough, a separate, alarmingly similar incident occurred in Massachusetts recently.
It’s an epidemic! Quick, mothers of America, arm your female toddlers with mace and pepperspray! Start searching your sons’ rooms (yes, the same ones that are wallpapered with Barney and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) for Playboy magazines and roofies. Thankfully, the New York youngster was suspended before he could do anymore damage. His school took that poignant ‘90s motto, “It’s never too early to catch a sex offender,” to heart.
During the Fall Reading Days, the whole issue hit me smack in the face. Tuesday morning, I drove my brother to preschool. When we got there, he led me to the photographs of himself and his classmates on the wall. He pointed out all of his best friends, in particular a little girl named Molly. When pressed for details about Molly, Johnny gave me a sheepish smile and said, “She’s funny. She’s not very cute but she’s funny. She’s my friend.”
Further probing revealed that Molly is Johnny’s girlfriend. Now, how’s that for an enlightened, ‘90s kind of guy? Only four years old, and already he realizes that there is more to a woman than her outer appearance. If those first graders are being publicly chastised for their breaches of conduct, then my little brother deserves to be one of Good Housekeeping’s Men of the Year.
But this is not theend of my story about Johnny. You see, not half a second after Johnny finished telling me about Molly, an adorable little girl walked up and said hi. Bashful as usual, Johnny hid behind me and peeked out from around my leg. "HI JOHNNY!" the little girl persisted. Finally Johnny squeaked out a lame greeting. Rather formidably, the girl drew herself up to her full height (a scary three whole feet), and shouted, “I SAI-AID…HHIIIII!!! YOU REMEMBER MY NAME?? YOU NEVER REMEMBER MY NAME! MY NAME IS SUSAN! S-U-S-A-N! DON’T FORGET!"
And with that, Susan the Preschool Amazon Queen stalked away, leaving my near-whimpering brother to breathe a sigh of relief. Johnny later informed me that Susan chases him all over the playground, when all he wants to do is to play Molly and his other friends. My poor little brother. Four-years-old and he is already caught in a preschool love triangle.
Back to the main focus of this column: respect for one’s peers and their personal space. Was suspension a realistic and fair punishment for the six-year-old’s crime? Could his actions justifiably be labeled a crime? If so, I have here the names of several dozens of now-college-age men who must be hunted down and punished for school-yard transgressions. The FBI can contact me any time.
But, you ask, what must become of our hapless triangle of four-year-olds? Thanks to her early pattern of assertiveness, Susan will grow up to be a strong and self-sufficient woman. On the other hand, as a result of her torment, Johnny will spend tens of thousands of dollars on therapy and years rebuilding his meager self esteem. And what about Molly? Will she, too, be a victim? Luckily for her, my parents taught their son well. There are to be absolutely no roofies dissolved in apple juice at snack time, and no “for a good time, call…” scrawled on the potty in crayon.
(Masha Herbst is a first-year College student.)
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Date Added June 15, 2016
Date Modifed December 24, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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