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Sex Offender Issues

Readers — So a 79-year-old sub in New Hampshire (the good ol’ “Live Free or Die” state) was given the choice: De-friend all the students you’ve friended on Facebook or never work in this school system again.

She chose the latter.

This story is dismaying for a bunch of reasons, the first being that Facebook is like the modern-day town center, where people meet and greet — even people of different ages. Seeing it as the Pedophile Pages is like seeing the outside world as Child Snatch-o-Rama.

Also disturbing is the comment one supporter of the rule wrote on Facebook itself (the devil’s tool):  “Rules are rules and while her intentions MIGHT be good, I am sure parents don’t want male teachers friending their 14/15 year old daughters on facebook!”

MIGHT be good? Like there’s a decent chance this lady was really out to lure jail bait back to her lair? And what’s with the demonization of male teachers? Oh right…it’s the demonization of males who are teachers. Because if all teachers are suspect, MALE teachers are simply terrifying. – L.

P.S. Thanks to William Noren for sending and bringing up all these great points!

UPDATE: Reader Crystallee Newton  explains what brought this case to the fore:

This was a new rule in response to a recent scandal where a young male teacher was sexually abusing a female student. This happened about 30 minutes from where I live. Local news stories interviewed current and former students of this teacher (who is a substitute, by the way, not a full time teacher) and by all accounts she is a lovely older woman who uses her FB page to spread inspiration to her friends (yes, including students) and for years has been a positive influence to the students she interacted with. This town is known for it’s crippling poverty and drug abuse. The kids in that district need more people like this woman. After the abuse scandal, the school district made a knee-jerk reaction policy to ban FB friendships between students and teachers in an attempt to look like they were doing something. The student who was assaulted by her teacher (allegedly multiple times) was not assaulted over FB, she was sexually molested in a classroom at her school. The school boa
rd should try figuring out how that happened with no one noticing or being aware of the situation. It certainly had nothing to do with an almost 80 year old substitute teacher passing along inspirational quotes to kids who look up to her. That’s why this is a Free-Range issue. This is just another example of these blanket bans that protect no one, and punish innocent people. – Crystallee 

I do NOT like this school's anti-social paranoia.

I do NOT like this school’s anti-social paranoia.

 

 

Readers — It’s weird enough when we are warned that our bumper stickers are busy attracting predators. Now there is a new line of school bus that videos the cars behind it, on the bizarre assumption that these may be driven by predators so unsure of where else to find a child that they are following the big, yellow kiddie dispenser. And that’s not to mention the thumbprint recognition and tracking of the students, as if THEY were predators: 

A brief glance won’t tell you the new buses are equipped with voice-over-IP communication systems, or that they transmit data on speed, location and acceleration in real-time. The “Thumbs-Up!” thumbprint scanner, which keeps track of which kids are on the bus and whether they’re supposed to be there, is also hard to see unless you’re really pressing your face to the glass, as are the multiple interior security cameras.

Slightly easier to notice is the rear-facing camera, dubbed — no joke — the “Pedophile Finder.” “I wish we could have come up with a better name for it,” says Dallas County Schools spokeswoman Allison Allison. (Yes, that’s the correct name.) The camera, mounted on the top portion of the school bus and positioned to capture the license plate of tailing vehicles, isn’t just to catch pedophiles. It could be a parent who lost custody of their child, or a kidnapper. But “Pedophile Finder” was the name that stuck. “The bus driver can’t tell if somebody’s tailing him but if they recognize a pattern of a car following a bus” based on video, they can take appropriate measures.

I’m really curious what those “appropriate measures” are. Slam on the brakes and wait for the crash? Alert the police, “There’s  a car behind me!”  Get out of the bus and demand to see if the driver is wearing pants? Please, PLEASE protest if your school district even CONSIDERS these add-ons as “necessary for the safety of our children.” – L. 

To catch a predator...while driving a bus.

To catch a bus-tailgating predator.

Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:

 

Would we stop to ask if she's ok?

Would you stop? Why or why not? 

A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.

Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:

…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.

I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.

Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….

It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.

Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.

Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive  cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.

Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.

Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L

Readers — While we’re thinking back on news stories that changed childhood (see the post below this one, on Kitty Genovese), take a look at this video just released by the New York Times chronicling the McMartin pre-school Santanic panic. If this intrigues or outrages you (it will), I’d also recommend the incredibly gripping James Woods’ movie about the case, “Indictment,” as well as Debbie Nathan‘s book, Satan’s Silence: Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. Debbie is in the Times’ video, too.  -  L

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Folks, here’s a piece by me that’s slightly off topic in that it’s not about kids — per se. But it is about hyper-sensitivity, in this case, to the statue of a male sleepwalker on the Wellesley College campus.

The connection here is this: Free-Range fights the spread of excessive fear. And fear grows on the assumption of fragility, the assumption that  mere EXPOSURE to anything upsetting or imperfect  – an idea, a germ, a disappointment, a scrape, a statue — is potentially devastating.

Free-Range Kids says we are stronger than that. We demean kids and adults when we assume they can’t handle everyday life, be it walking to school, playing on a merry-go-round, or encountering an odd statue. – L. 

Fear and Loathing at Wellesley

A life-like statue of a guy sleepwalking in his underwear awakens a protest by campus feminists.

By LENORE SKENAZY

A realistic-looking statue of a sleepwalking schlub in his underpants has caused an outrage at Wellesley, a women’s college in Massachusetts near Boston. The students are so disturbed that they want him—I mean, it—gone.

Grab the smelling salts, ladies. This is not a prowler, it’s a piece of art.

That distinction doesn’t seem to matter to the 700 angry and aggrieved students, alumni and others who in recent days have signed a petition demanding the removal of artist Tony Matelli’s “Sleepwalker.” They say that, while inanimate, the male image is nonetheless a “trigger”—a catalyst capable of stirring up anything from memories of sexual assault to fear of strangers.

“Sleepwalker” on the campus of Wellesley College.Getty Images

“Wellesley should be a safe place for their students, not a triggering one,” wrote one petition-signer, as if the statue actually made the campus dangerous. That’s a brand-new way of looking at—and trying to legislate—the world. So I checked in with Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, about the Wellesley panic. “It’s the idea that any kind of discomfort is a form of assault,” he noted.

Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete, since anything a person does, makes or says could be interpreted as abuse.

READ THE REST HERE.

Readers — This powerful comment came in response to my piece about the New Jersey woman who let her toddler sleep in the car for 5-10 minutes while she ran an errand. She was arrested, found guilty of abuse or neglect, and put on the state’s Child Abuse Registry. Two weeks ago, a New Jersey appeals court upheld that conviction. I love this letter:

The Child Abuse and Sex Offender Registries are out to SHAME, not SAVE.  (Prop stockade from BJWinslow)

Often as not, the Child Abuse and Sex Offender Registries are out to SHAME, not SAVE. (Prop stockade from BJWinslow)

Dear Free-Range Kids: I think what we’re really seeing here is just our country’s punitive mindset. It’s like we cannot imagine any way to express to somebody that we don’t like what they are doing except for calling it “abuse” and putting them on a registry.

We should all be wary of slippery-slope reasoning. That is what happened with sex offender registries in many states. Registries originally designed to be lists of people who, if a young child went missing, might [warrant being] investigated because their history made it much more likely that they’d rape and murder a child, became, in many states, lists of young men who had sex we think they shouldn’t have. The rationale for doing things like keeping the 20 year old guy who slept with a willing 15 year old girlfriend on a registry for life is that we don’t want 50 year olds to think it’s okay to sleep with 12 year olds. But that’s not how things work. Harshly punishing people for crimes we don’t really consider particularly heinous or dangerous is NOT the way to prevent people from committing heinous, dangerous crimes.

So if the fear is that people will knowingly leave their kids in the car for hours in the hot sun, for their own convenience, which would be genuine child abuse, we are not going to stop that by creating a registry of people who leave their kids in the car for 10 minutes on a nice, temperate day. What next? Registering people who spank their kids so that people don’t think child beating is okay? Registering people who withhold treats from a child so people won’t think starving a child is okay?

“IMPERFECTION” IS NOT ABUSE

Whether we think she acted wisely or not, this woman was charged with CHILD ABUSE and is now on a registry of child abusers. The child abuse registry should not be a list of people who made parenting decisions we don’t like and who we think should therefore be publicly shamed for it; it should be a list of people who ACTUALLY pose a danger to children. This woman does not.

If people feel the need to call this woman a bad mom, call her a bad mom. Whatever. But we don’t want or need the state to validate those judgments, for maximum public humiliation. The point of laws should be public safety, not public humiliation, but more and more of our laws and moving in the direction of seeming to be more about shaming and humiliating and branding people who made decisions we don’t like rather than actually protecting the public from truly dangerous people. – Anonymous Mom

 

Criminalizing behavior we wouldn't do is different from criminalizing behavior that is parenting decisions we don't agree with.

The Child Abuse and Sex Offender Registries are out to SHAME, not SAVE.  (Prop stockade from BJWinslow)

Readers — Canada’s “Contrarian” explains how the media work (and even how upset parents sometimes behave). Read the whole piece here.-  L

Fear-mongering as news: turning sad stories into bogus trends

(1)  A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity that most grownups, regardless of their own sexual behaviour as teens, find shocking and horrific.

(2)  The girl’s parent or parents learn of the activity and are utterly devastated.

(3)  A family crisis ensues, with outcomes that can range from good to horrendous.

(4)  In their struggle to process shocking new information about the child they love, the distraught parent or parents construct a frame to explain and cope with this cognitive dissonance.

(5)  The frame invariably posits the existence of a large but hitherto unacknowledged social problem that explains how a good child falls into bad situations.

(6)  The parent seeks a journalist’s help in exposing this putative social problem.

(7)  To justify publicizing salacious details of a private family tragedy, the journalist adopts the frame. The girl’s story is not simply her story, but an exemplar of an unrecognized social problem of broad and increasing scope—a sinister trend, usually one in which digital media are implicated.

Continued….

Lenore here: I was just fascinated by this idea of a path from personal humiliation/sadness/fury  to paranoia to policy. – L

Read all about it! (Whether "it" is the actual problem or not.)

Read all about it! (Whether “it” is a widespread problem or not.)