Moral of Story: When 8-year-olds Are Silly, The School Goes Nuts

Hi Readers — Here’s a cautionary tale for parents whose kids sometimes do dumb things. But that can’t be many of us, right?

Dear Free-Range Kids: We are devout Free-Range parents and our 8-year-old son walks to and from school nearly every day alone.  We gave him a pre-paid cell phone so he can check in with us if need be.  Long story short, he had a playdate with a friend where they took silly 8-year-old pictures using the phone, one of them a picture of our son’s penis when he was on the potty.

A few days later our boy showed the picture to about six older boys on the playground after school.  At home he told us what happened and we immediately had a very serious conversation about these kinds of pictures and considered the case closed.

Ha.

The next day we got a call from the principal saying that our son had been expelled from school because she felt he was an “immediate and continuing danger.” She charged him with Lewd Conduct (a charge a good step above Sexual Harassment) and felt we should submit all of his physical/psychological records to the safety office at the school district. She also requested he undergo a mental evaluation before he would be allowed to return to school.

We appealed her actions, but the school district upheld her decision. We worked our way through the bureaucracy and finally found a higher-up to meet with our son, who immediately realized he’s just a regular kid. In the end he missed nearly two weeks of school.

Our son doesn’t understand pornography or even knows what sex is.  There was no consideration given to the normal, natural fascinations of an 8-year-old boy.  His principal didn’t call us or talk to any of his teachers before taking action.  She was great in covering her back, but wasn’t able to distinguish an 8-year-old boy from a sex offender.

Just one week later, we witnessed another bit of school insanity, this one having nothing to do with the photo. It was this: our son’s Chess Club teacher escorted him to my car because he was afraid he would be “liable” if our son was kidnapped.  This, even though every day at recess the kids have to travel much farther to get to the playground than they do to get to the drop-off zone in front of the school! It’s right there!

My husband is from Germany and we spent 1+ years travelling in Mexico and Central America.  Free-Range is a given in these countries and we’ve happily let our kids take part.  They ask us why so many people don’t let their kids do anything on their own here, and the only answer we can give them is, “Because it’s America.”

Isn’t there a better answer? What is happening to our country? — A&M

72 Responses

  1. Another one of my reasons why my kids won’t be getting a cell any time soon. I can see mine deciding that something stupid like this was funny.

  2. See our previous discussion – what the heck is an 8 year old doing with a cell phone? That is the real crime here. My 8 year old walks to school and back just fine without one.

  3. In second grade, my friends and I got red check marks on our weekly behavior sheets because we were standing on the toilet paper dispensers in the bathroom and looking over into the adjacent stalls. Guess we would’ve been expelled if we had done it in 2010.

  4. I would have been more concerned about the toilet paper dispenser falling under your weight and someone breaking an arm than about any “sexual harassment”. LOL.

  5. BMS – if you’re an 8 year old boy, stupid things like that ARE funny!

  6. It’s a sad day when the biggest fear parents feel about sending their kids to school is that their teachers / administrators will be this stupid / out of touch / mentally ill.

    This is not the kind of thing that should be keeping parents awake at night.

  7. I know – I am the owner and operator of an 8 year old and a 10 year old boy. There but for the grace of God go I…

  8. @bushidoka Oh please. If a parent wants to give there kid a cell phone they CAN. Do they have to no, but it’s not a crime. Give the parent a break. Aren’t we all supposed to be “free range” here? Let her parent however she wants!

  9. I remember when my brother was about 7 and the principal made a call to my mom to let her know that he was “playing on the urinals.” Mom rolled her eyes and moved on to the next thing. Me, I wondered what “playing on the urinals” could possibly look like, (and why anyone would want to do it), and moved on.

  10. I do have a secret fear of my kid using a camera phone in an inappropriate way some day. But I was thinking that concern could be left on the back burner until the girls at least knew what sex was. Ugh.

  11. My daughter did a similar thing when she got her first camera. She took pictures of everything, including her sister on the toilet and the contents of the toilet. I am so glad it was a digital camera and not a film camera. We were able to have a discussion of what was appropriate to capture on film and what was not. I can (thankfully) only imagine what would have happened had we taken film in to develop.

  12. Well, this is actually the only drawback I can see (and actually experience) about all this free-range business. You leave your children be and surprise, surprise, you find out kids are impulsive, unconscious and totally disregard the laws of nature (like gravity).
    It gives the “Caution: children” signs a totally new perspective. Whenever I see one of those, now I think about rolling my windows up and abstaining from chucking peanuts at them.

  13. BMS – same, I have 10, 7 & 2 year old boys – I feel your pain.

    (Also there was supposed to be a LOL or smiley face at the end of my last comment – sorry if it came across as harsh :))

  14. What a ridiculous fuss over normal boy behavior. Boys that young don’t see anything wrong with their penis unless something has happened to make them think that way. They’re more likely to consider it a way to make jokes they know are somehow forbidden, but not why.

  15. Lol! I think it’s a boy thing. We’ve all had fascinations about our thing at that age, even younger. Why does it look like that? Why do I have it? How come girls don’t have it? etc… Mind you though, we never actually thought of taking pictures of it, most likely because we didn’t have cellphone camera technology back then, and our fathers would never, ever let us touch the camera, and waste film. lol

    Some grown ups can be be like children sometimes, and even then, I know children that have more common sense.

  16. our bodies are pretty fascinating. I hope the parents were somehow able to shield the kid from this nonsense. Sounds like he had to grow up a little faster.

  17. I’m guessing it’s a public school? I find it striking just how uninterested the principal was in a parent’s opinion of the school.

  18. Honestly the poster should have had this conversation with her son before giving him the phone/camera. I’m a teacher and we use technology every day and cameras are a regular feature.

    When the cameras come out we review the rules
    1. Never take a picture without the person’s permission.
    2. Always wear the wrist strap. (I’ve had kids 2 – 18 use my dig cameras well over a decade and they have never broken one)
    3. Cameras never go near water.
    4. Cameras do not go into the bathroom
    5. If it is covered by a bathing suit it is NOT photographed.
    6. Nothing is ever really deleted and Ms. Herbert is the Tech god.

    Now if this happened at my school the reaction would depend on the child

    If the kid had never been in trouble or kid was a general prankster – “serious conversation about this, and a call to parents”

    If the kid had a history of inappropriate behavior especially of a sexual nature – then it might be escalated.

    Yes I have seen 8 yo who behave in a sexually inappropriate manner like telling another child I’m going to beak into your house and make you watch your Mom suck ………………….

    The child was a victim, but he is making other kids the victims. I wish we could remove him from the school till he gets more help. Some of the experts feel he needs intensive residential 24/7 help, but the Mom won’t allow it. (Father had parental rights severed and went to jail) He is never alone with other kids and is escorted to the bathroom – which must be cleared of other kids.

  19. Forgot a rule
    7. No throwing signs

  20. I live in Mexico and even though these are tough times for us as the crime rate is at an all-time high, I still see kids playing at parks and riding their bikes on the street and they’re fine.

  21. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but for a society so worried about children keeping their innocence, we sure do everything we can to prevent it! (Not FR’ers)

    This kid didn’t think anything bad, dirty, or negative about his boy parts, nor should he. But after all the hassle, the big deal made over it, and his likely treatment as a perv, I’m sure he NOW thinks something is very wrong with his body. The school made the very thing they say they area against happen- the sexualization of kids. Most kids DON’T know about sex, so reacting like this school only guarantees they learn early.

    The same thing happens whenever normal parents go to worst first thinking about pedos- their way of seeing kids, other adults, and the world has been changed, and made dirty. Its very sad.

    While its never wise to take pics of your privates, its normal for little kids to look at them, play with them and show them to others. *Gasp* I said its NORMAL, oh noes. Kids these days just have new tech to add to the curiosity.

    Let’s not make innocent curiosity into something its not- lewd.

  22. @Kimberly Thank you. As with everything, this may not be a cut and dried as it appears. Seems to me true Freerangers have an obligation to consider more circumspectly. Instead, most of these have done exactly what they condemn the principal for doing — ignorantly jumping to a conclusion.

  23. Susanstarr thanks for the wonderful dose of nostalgia. I remember looking over the stalls, whether it was kindergarten or 1st or 2nd I couldn’t say, but no one turned anyone in; they were too busy giggling. Something even more wild and crazy took place in kindergarten: A little boy threatened to kiss me and my girlfriend, chased us into the bathroom and wrestled me to the icky floor. I’m sure I was too flattered to care about such a thing, and likely bragged about it all week, how Bobby S. kissed me. The little pervert.

  24. Over the summer I saw a 1 year-old running on the shore of the city swimming lake, buck naked, and I–ok–took a picture of it. It’s funny. Even better, the parents thought nothing of it–me taking a photo of it or their child doing that to start with.

    Normal child behavior is being criminalized. Perverted thoughts are being attached to things as innocent as a Donna Reed movie. Ugh.

    LRH
    Blackberry Bold 9000

  25. OMG!!!!!!!!

    That’s all.

  26. Re phones, they DO come without cameras, like mine.

  27. […] Moral of Story: When 8-year-olds Are Silly, The School Goes Nuts Hi Readers — Here’s a cautionary tale for parents whose kids sometimes do dumb things. But that can’t be many of us, […] […]

  28. Though I can understand the point of knowing what photos are (quote in quote) “acceptable” to have on a phone and the increasing concern of sexting, though I do thing that treating your son (an 8 year old), no more than a sex offender is absolutely absurd and I’m pretty confident that your son got the message after you talked with him. Follow the bathing suit rule, whatever a bathing suit would cover up don’t have a photo of it haha.

    And that teacher concerned with your son being kidnapped is absurd.

    I remember me being in my elementary school, the worst thing I can remember about such concerns weren’t as intense. I remember, I think once 3-5 grade somewhere there, our class was running the mile and at the for end of the route of the mile in a hidden corner were a few high school kids trying to share cigarettes with us (though none took it that I know of), and our teacher got rid of them. That’s the real worst of the worry that I remember back in the mid late 90’s thankfully.

  29. The parents of this child may need to hire someone who knows the law, and then get this expunged from the school records, or at least be sure that the follow up is correctly stated. They don’t want this following their son if they change schools or move or anything.

    They also need to disable the camera or get a phone without one. I wouldn’t have thought of that as an issue, but I could totally see my boys doing the same thing given friends and a camera.

  30. […] Moral of Story: When 8-year-olds Are Silly, The School Goes Nuts. Six year old boy takes self portrait, adults come unglued… *facepalm* […]

  31. Certainly a good reminder about the value of getting phones that don’t include cameras (but your kid’s friend probably has one and is willing to share it, even if yours doesn’t) and teaching about appropriate camera use (but of course, kids do break rules, without there being anything nefarious about their rule-breaking).

    For those who’d say kids shouldn’t have cell phones, maybe some should, maybe some shouldn’t. It’s increasingly difficult to find pay phones, for example, so I finally gave up and got myself (an adult) a cell phone. I can easily see deciding to do the same thing so that if the kid needs to make a call, he can.

  32. Unfortunately, it’s not just cell phones. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking the battery out of my digital camera and putting it out of kids’ reach, because on more than one occasion, I’ve downloaded pictures I had taken, only to find 50 extra shots of my oldest daughter’s bedroom floor, the TV, her books, and yep…..her naked little sister (who thorougly enjoys running around the house in a little clothing as possible – she’s 4).

    While it IS perfectly normal for young kids to enjoy being nude and checking out all those “weird” parts that are normally covered up, we’ll never get out from under the sexual perversion mentality of it. The innocence of the youth hasn’t been taken away by the peodophiles; it’s been taken away by the people afraid of peodophiles, and they are the reason my stomach drops just a little each time I’m surprised by an innocent picture of my naked little girl.

  33. This also seems like another example of schools over-reaching into matters outside of school – like telling parents how there child must get to school.

    The picture was taken during a playdate so not involving the school at all. And was shown to other boys after school hours, although apparently on school property but not during any kind of school sponsored after school program; just some kids messing around on the play ground. When I was a kind, the school kept it’s authority to school hours and left the rest of the day to the parents. While I understand it was school property, it seems like less of a school issue. We frequently play on the playground at my daughter’s school on weekends or evenings. If she misbehaves can she be suspended then too?

  34. Honestly, I think this child was too young to be given this phone. Phones come with a responsibility that obviously he doesn’t understand. Let him BE A KID right?

  35. Normally I’m not a fan of lawsuits but it seems that the only thing that will stop overreactions like that of the school administration (which is probably rooted in in a fear of litigation anyway) is to sue folks like these until they are more scared of being sued for overreacting than being sued for acting sensibly.

  36. @Jen C,

    You hit it spot on!

  37. Of course, for everybody going “It’s because his parents gave him a phone!” there *are* such things as cell phones without cameras. Yes, even nowadays you can get them.

    They might even be cheaper than the “normal” type with cameras, which makes them more suitable for children or anybody else prone to losing or breaking things that YOU have to pay for😛

  38. we don’t have to send our kids to public schools. this will get worse. in jr high and hs, there’ll be random searches for no reason, drug dogs, car searches, etc. it’s worth paying for a school that respects you and your kid or homeschooling. as free range parents, we don’t have to tolerate this.

  39. No, the child isn’t messed up in the head, but this should have been prevented at age two or three when the conversations about “private parts” should have started.

    I don’t understand why people are finding this laughable or “silly”, or associating it with being “free range”. While I certainly think it is ridiculous that the school was making him out to be a deranged sex offender for this behavior, this is something that, while perhaps done in innocence for the most part, should have been prevented long before the child was old enough to go to school or have a cell phone.

  40. What I find most amazing is that the principal decided the kid was some sort of sex offender and not that maybe, just maybe, this kid might be acting out due to sexual abuse. Now, I’m not saying he was – I’m just commenting on how traumatic her reaction could have been if this child was being abused. But no thought of helping a child and finding out, “No reasonable need for concern.” Only the immediate thought that boys are merely sexual predators in training – no questions asked.

    I hope she doesn’t have kids.

  41. Uly I agree 100%. A child doesn’t need a Blackberry, a simple “black & white” Nokia from the early 2000’s, if you can find one & it works, would be plenty enough. Heck, until I got my first-ever smartphone, a Palm Treo 650, in January 2008, I still used such phones, I had not even “graduated” to color-screen flip-phones yet.

    Besides being cheaper, it’s a good way to keep the emphasis on “only for emergencies” & prevent them from burning up units on heavy texting, downloading ringtones-games etc.

    LRH

  42. Ly, I’m sure that most parents tell their preschoolers how to properly behave with respect to “private parts,” but most kids will still try to get away with some antics, especially when encouraged by other children. If anything, they will do it “because” they aren’t supposed to. This in iteslf is not a free-range issue, because these things happen with “helicoptered” children as well.

    The reason this story offends the free-range mindset is that it goes along with the whole overall mentality that little things lead to big, scary, damaging things. Like, pointing one’s finger and saying “bang, bang” will lead to a massive school shooting someday. And hugging a fellow kindergartener will lead to a violent rape someday. Now, taking a humorous interest in one’s own privates is going to lead to serial molestation in the imminent future. What’s next? If there is no reason applied in such cases, how do I know my kid won’t be thrown out of school for some completely unpredictable reason?

  43. ****See our previous discussion – what the heck is an 8 year old doing with a cell phone? That is the real crime here. My 8 year old walks to school and back just fine without one.

    While I agree that kids don’t need cell phones… let’s not forget that the real issue here is the principle and the way out of bound charges against the boy.

    So long,
    Corinna

  44. Jeeze. I honestly don’t see what the big deal is with cell phones (except that it is a new technology that we didn’t have growing up), assuming that you talk with your children to lay out what is appropriate and what is not, and also gauge whether or not they are mature enough to have a phone – the same way you wouldn’t let your 4-year old walk a mile to school, but you might let your 8 or 9-year old, once they are mature enough.

    To be honest, my daughter having a phone allows me to be a better free-range parent. I don’t know how our parents did it – despite my long-standing determination to be as free-range a parent as possible, I still struggle with my constant urge to protect my daughter from the world and all of its possible dangers – and the fact that I know she has her phone and can call me (or even 911) if she needs to, from any place whatsoever – and that she can text me to check in and let me know where she is and what she is doing – has been a huge factor in my ability to (very gradually!) let her do things like walk to the store with her friend. Do I make her text me as soon as she arrives, and again when she is headed back? Of course. Would I let her go if she didn’t have the phone and no way to contact me? I wish I could be a better free-ranger, but honestly, the answer is probably not. -And that is OK, that is the balance I have found that works for us.

    It’s not just about me, though – she calls and texts most of her friends – half the kids in her class have phones, so she would want one anyway – and the bottom line is that I, the person who knows her abilities and trustworthiness best in all the world, have adjudged her to be mature and trustworthy enough for the responsibility of having a cell phone, so I ‘let’ her have one (the same way I ‘let’ her walk to the store or soccer practice😉. And while she loves to chat and text and even take pictures on her phone, we have talked about right and wrong things to do with her phone and everything she does is appropriate, and it has in no way prevented her (quite the opposite, in fact, since I am comfortable enough to let her go run around with her friends ‘unsupervised’ after school, etc.) from playing outside, riding her bike around the neighborhood, climbing trees, splashing in puddles, and (one of her biggest thrills) going to the store with her friend to spend their allowances on whatever their little hearts pick out, ‘all by themselves’ – all of the things that an almost-11-year old *should* be doing. -Sorry for the rant, -I know that it is up to every parent to decide if and when their children are ready for their own phones; I am not trying to say ‘Hey, every kid should have one!’ -But that is my very point – it is up to every parent and every family to decide, and so it bugs me a little bit to hear people rant against a child having a phone (or a camera, or or or…) just because he or she is a child.

  45. If a 50 year old guy takes a snapshot of his junk and shows it to kids on a playground, weird and creepy. If an 8 yr old does, ya just tell him not to do that and laugh.

  46. As a rule, unless there’s some kind of exceptional situation, I don’t think it’s a good idea to give an 8 year old a cell phone, for a whole host of reasons.

    That said, the issue here is the kid being treated like a sex offender for acting like an 8 year old kid. I might consider it a poor decision to give an 8 year old a cell phone, but that in no way makes that decision — or the parent who made it — responsible for an egregious and idiotic abuse of power by the school authorities.

  47. Heather – just food for thought, I’m not being judgemental or snarky. If your daughter knows that she can call or text you or 911, is she more likely to get herself into dangerous situations? Maybe not now at her age, but think about the situations she could get into in h.s. and college.

    I think we’re relying too much on technology rather than our kids instincts to keep them safe. Once they learn the fundamentals, then give them the advanced tools. They need to learn basic math before they can handle graphing calculators, cell phones seem to be the same thing to me.

  48. As a previous poster said, why not get your son a cheap, basic phone. My son has my old phone, which is close to 10 years old. The battery on that one is on its last legs, so I’m replacing it with a cheap, pay as you go Vodaphone model that I got in our PX for $22. You can make and receive calls and SMS messages and that’s about it. He has the phone so that he can call if his school lets out early or if he’s out with friends and can let me know that he will be home late.

    Showing private parts is part of being a kid. My son and one of his friends recently decided that it would be great fun to pee in the toilet at the same time, try to join their streams, etc. Unfortunately, their aim wasn’t super accurate and they ended up cleaning up the floor. But in my mind and theirs, they weren’t budding sex offenders; they were just two boys doing something silly.

  49. My guess is that the school acted on this because a parent freaked out about it. Maybe the parents of one of the boys he showed the pics to, maybe the parent of a kid who only heard that penis pictures were being shown during recess. But I’d bet any money that it was an hysterical call from a parent that kicked off this whole mess. Once a parent raises the concern that there is something inappropriate going on, most school adminstrators feel they have no option but to persue the issue and apply whatever prescribed punishment is on the books. .

  50. chastising people for giving their kids phones… what about divorced parents who aren’t in amicable situations with their exes (most of them, probably!). there are many good reasons to give a kid a phone- they help teach responsibility- the phone has to be charged the kid can handle more of their own emergencies- ‘I gotta call Bill about band practice being canceled’ or whatever. they can have multiple experts- ‘grandpa, what kind of fish is this?’ and they send a picture of the fish they caught. I love that I get a text saying ‘the dogs could use food’ or ‘we’re out of milk’ because they just spent the day baking…

    cell phones are efficient communication and can be a great tool, as well as an abused toy. I guess this was true of the pony express, the telegraph, phones, emails, texts, etc.

  51. Good grief! He got in trouble for being a–gasp!–kid.
    As for where the inappropriate, not criminal, picture was taken, some states’ laws view children as “school property” anytime they are outside their own homes. Hello, Big Brother!

  52. This story rings so close to a situation I recently had to deal with involving my 7 year old son. On the way home from school one day another 2nd grade boy dared him to say the work sex and then dared him to tell people to “sex each other”. It was a warm day so I was taking care of some gardening and the bus driver saw me outside and called me over to let me know what was said. My 7 year old was upset and started to cry because by then he figured out that he shouldn’t say things that another kid dared him to say because it probably wasn’t appropriate. He explained to the bus driver that he didn’t even know what it meant and asked her if it meant kissing. He apologized to the girl who overheard him (a 4th grader) who was the one who alerted the bus driver. I thought it was all over and done with. I was very wrong. The next day the school principal found out about the situation and then called other parents to let them know what my son said. He talked to my son and told him he’d have detention and could be suspended. My son came home very upset and I was upset because the school didn’t even contact me to let me know that they were giving my son a detention and were threatening him with suspension. I finally got a hold of the principal the next day and he told me that there is a zero tolerance policy and that my son sexually harrassed students who know what sex means. He then went on to tell me that he determined that my son didn’t even know what it meant, but he’d still have to serve an hour detention and that if he ever said it again he’d be suspended for two weeks. It was more of a punishment for me because it now meant that my son could not ride the school bus and that I was now the one who had to pack up his younger brother to make the trip to and from school. His detention was simply him and this boy sitting in the principals office reading their favorite books. When I picked him up he told me that he was surprised I was there already because it just flew by while he read Harry Potter. The only thing I fought was having Sexual Harassment taken off his school record, and it was. I figured if he is going to repeat things that other people tell him then he can serve the consequence for doing that if what he says is not appropriate, but I couldn’t see him being labeled as a sexual harasser for as long as he is in the school district. He’s only 7 and doesn’t even know the meaning of sex. A few days later he came home from school very upset. They took a computer lab survey and they had to put their Sex down as one of the questions. He wants to know why he gets in trouble for asking if someone is a female or male and the media center teacher didn’t get a detention for asking them their “sex”. Way to go zero tolerance.

  53. Re phones, they DO come without cameras, like mine.

    Yeah, but when should a kid get his first camera? Growing up, I had received a kid’s camera at age 5, and it was a film camera so my parents couldn’t even review the pics I’d taken before they were developed.

    I always thought age 5-6 is a good age for a first camera. My 4 year old has been fascinated with our old digital camera for months. It’s a bit heavy for him, so I’ve been looking at the kids digital cameras. My thought has been that at least with digital, there’s a whole lot less waste than with film.

  54. How did this string of comments mostly get to be about whether or not to give your young child a cell phone (w/ or w/o a camera)??

    The outrage here is the principal. To me, that principal should be fired. Now. First off, if my son had come home and told me how a younger, 8 yr old, had shown them pix of his penis on his camera, I would probably find out who the kid was and call the parents directly. I understand that it may be easier to call the principal first, but I always think it’s best to go to the source. But, understandably, calling the principal about this is reasonable.

    But why is the principal then not calling the 8 yr old boy’s parent first? She immediately jumps to expelling him?? Charging him with lewd conduct and demanding on his medical records be turned into the district?? (Is that even legal? And how many 8 yr old even have “psychological” records–mine don’t?). If I were any parent in that school, I would raise holy hell that the principal is so lacking on reason, common sense, mediation skills–just to name a few. I would do whatever i could to remove my children from under that principal’s rule.

    THAT is the outrage. Not the cell phone. Not the camera.

  55. Reminds me of when my 5 or 6 year old daughter took her digital camera to kindergarten for show and tell (hand me down from grandma). She was showing it off at daycare afterward, and a boy there from her class took the exact same picture of himself as referred to in this article, and then showed it to the other kids there.

    Daycare providers quickly noticed, took camera away, deleted picture, and then called the parents to let us know. I’ll never forget that embarrassed, apologetic phone call – “and the worst part is that none of the girls who saw it have brothers!”

    Fortunately, all the parents reacted by laughing hysterically, and it was a great opportunity to talk about keeping bodies private.

  56. MommyMitzi, I agree that he should have just called the parents, AND his purpose should have been for them to advise him why it’s a bad idea to take and show photos of private stuff. He should have been concered for the child’s well-being, but his actions were those of someone out to hurt the child.

  57. My 6 year old follows the darn dog around to take pictures of his butt.

  58. I don’t know, Dee. I guess the right age is sometime after they learn not to take pictures of private parts, their own or anybody else’s.

    Of course, my first camera was used to take naked pictures too. And no, you can’t see them – they were unceremoniously burned when my grandparents found out, and we got a long lecture about why this was BAD, and they refused to buy any more film for a month. (We were visiting for the summer.)

    But do you know, my mother only found out about this two weeks ago? I guess they didn’t think it was worth a long-distance phone call to inform our parents what my sister and I had done!

  59. Eight is by far old enough to know you don’t take pictures of private parts. It sounds more like a failure of the parents to teach their kid properly, and then blame the school.

    If the school hadn’t done anything and then someone else found out, the principal could have been charged for overlooking child pornography. If a picture has a child’s private parts exposed in it, it’s counted as child porn.

    This is actually a problem in the high school my husband works at. They take pictures of their girlfriends naked and then send them all over campus with their cell phones. It’s an instant expulsion if caught. Otherwise, the school could face charges.

    Schools have to cover their butts because parents don’t teach their children to do right.

  60. People saying kids shouldn’t have phones because they can be used inappropriately (or that they must have one without a camera) are just being silly. Yes. I called you silly. Phones and cameras are everywhere today, and the key is to teach your kid to use one appropriately. Just saying “Take it away!” “Buy one without a camera!” “Take out the batteries!” is not going to help them learn about the latest tech, and it’s not going to let them channel their photographic curiosity and creativity in beneficial ways.
    It’s like saying “Take away the pencils and paper, because a kid might draw a picture of a penis and show it to a classmate who has never seen one! Avoid the horror!” Pencils and paper are tools that are mostly used for very good things, and when they are misused we just need a little correction – not a ban for all children.
    There are grown-ups who make money creating photos and art that include nude body parts. Big deal. Should your kid be doing it? Probably not, but if they snap a picture around the house of baby sister running around naked, that does not fit any definition of real child porn, so calm down.
    These zero-tolerance, CYA, idiot grown-up, school people are ruining our society by trying to criminalize ordinary curious activity (that should result in a good talk, but not the calling out of the National Guard), and stigmatizing our young people as ‘offenders’ when they are just learning about life, creativity, and what words mean.
    Parents need to stand up to this nonsense when it happens, and stand up to it loudly so others will learn what ‘normal’ is.

  61. Not nearly as much of an overreaction but my kindergartener daughter and her best friend kissed On The Lips in the cafeteria which warrented an immediate call to me from her teacher. The teacher sounded totally grossed out and told me that they both “confessed” before the other students could tell on them. The friend’s mom was also called and asked if she wanted to speak with her daughter about the incident right then over the phone. Talk about rewarding attention seeking behavior. This type of curiosity may not be my favorite 5 yr old behavior, but it’s completely developmentally appropriate.

  62. Oh for heaven’s sake. The principal over reacted. Kids will be kids, and do stupid stuff, naked body, penis, vagina, whatever. Doesn’t anyone recall playing “doctor”? I can recall doing it far past preschool age because it was forbidden, therefore exciting. (And no, seeing a naked boy wasn’t interesting; I would occasionally catch a glimpse of my older brother or father naked when camping. But seeing another kid naked – boy or girl – was exciting because forbidden.)

  63. Good grief. I think I was about that age when I showed a little boy my underwear. I got a lecture from my parents about being more “lady-like”. And I didn’t do it again.
    Now every kid with a sense of potty humor or curiosity about body parts is a sex-offender.
    My 5yo son got a little erection in the tub the other night, and he got so excited “Wooooo!!! Look at this!” He was waving it around for all to see. Is he a perv? No, he was just amazed at what his body did and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I did speak to him about “keeping private parts private”, though.

  64. @Jenn D If you are in the US and the principal gave the other parents your boy’s name – He violated Federal Privacy laws. That might help get the charge off your boy’s record.

    I had a similar situation with my 5th graders a few years ago. It was a very young group of 5th graders (most turned 10 in the weeks before school started).

    The word rape was being thrown around by the boys, EWWWW he raped you was the insult of choice.

    Added to the mixed was a girl that was molested, and another girl who witnessed a “friend of the family” beat and rape her mother.

    So after 1 warning by me to stop didn’t work, I called every single boys’ parents. I explained what the boys were saying (I didn’t say anything about the 2 girls) and gave the parents the weekend to handle this in their own way. A couple of the boys weren’t involved, but I gave their parents a heads up about the trend while praising the boys for not engaging in this behavior.

    I told the parents that if this taunt was used 1 more time in I would be informing the boy(s) involved what rape was and writing them up. (I had told them it was a violent crime, but no more details)

    I have some very contrite little boys come Monday morning. Several of them came in with public apologies their parents had made them prepare to read in front of the class. Others were told to apologize to every classmate individually.

    This added to the list of rules/advice I give my students. Don’t use words when you have no clue as to what they mean – especially on a dare. But you can ask me what any word means and I will explain it to you. In a few cases I will simply tell you it means something I’m not allowed to talk about never use it.

  65. Boys at that age are the same all over the world. My Ethio-Italian 8 yr old son and his friends go pee at the same time in the same toilet at home….I don’t think it’s lewd behaviour just boys trying being boys.

  66. The application of “zero tolerance” policies in schools is just out of control. It has never made any sense to me that the exact same consequences apply across the board from High School to Kindergarten. There is no common sense in this, at all. There is no room for case-by-case evaluations (once-upon-a-time, kids would be sent to the school counselor for an interview if there was some question, before definitive action was taken). The idea that children still learning to read should be punished by the same standards as kids old-enough-to-drive and soon-to-be-legal-voters (and then often have things they only half-understand follow them for the rest of their school career) is so ludicrous, I keep hoping to wake up and find out it isn’t true.

    It is such a sad state of affairs when kids are not given the room to be kids and make the usual stupid learning-mistakes that can just *happen*. It is no wonder so many parents are turning into helicopter parents and feeling like they have no choice, when any little thing they forget to drill into their children, or that their kids – being kids – might try to get away with when they aren’t looking *because kids do that* could potentially cause them to get kicked out of school and have their permanent record brand them as a criminal or “behaviorally abnormal” (oh, the irony of how that is actually used so much of the time).

    I don’t think the point here is that the parents “should have taught him better.” First of all… have you ever seen the old movie “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies”? In it, a very frazzled Doris Day explains to the teacher, basically, “I’m sorry. I never told him specifically not to do that.” My mother always laughed harder at that part than any others. This may be explained by the fact that she and I both had four brothers. The thing is, there are always going to be things you see better in hindsight, and a parent can’t always expect to cover everything, all the time, before it comes up. That’s what follow-up lessons are for.
    Secondly… see the part where I mentioned having four brothers. There is no way to know that they didn’t explain the basics of “don’t go showing off your stuff in public ways.” It doesn’t mean that children won’t do some of those things, anyways. Never underestimate the attraction of potty humor and bodily-function-fascination for kids. Heh.

    Oh… and cell phones. I wrestled over this one, myself. On one hand, I have a problem with the way a lot of children today seem to take for granted having all sorts of high-tech gadgets and toys, even at a very young age. I see too many kids with entitlement issues, and I have observed that expecting cell phones, etc. is often a part of it. My daughter has one, now, though a much fancier model than I would give her (my ex has different ideas). The reason I decided to go with it is that Back In The Day, my mother used to remind me to keep change (dimes, even!) with me, in case I needed to use the pay phone when I was out somewhere. My daughter, however, once got really excited and fascinated, when she was younger, because she saw one of those “phone things” next to a store *and it actually had a phone in it!* I have no idea what she thought they were, and I hadn’t realized that pretty much every one she had ever seen was just the left-behind stand with the phone removed. I kinda took it for granted when I was a kid that there would always be a pay phone around, or that (if really necessary) someone in a store would let me use their phone. These days, that’s just not always the case… which is why I finally got a cell phone around the same time I caved and let her have one. LOL

  67. It’s situations like these that make me reconsider my major- teaching. I would have handled this situation in a calm manner, like calling the mother and explaining what happened. Heck, I could lose my job for handling something inappropriately. At the same point maybe it’ll be a good thing- one voice of reason among all the over-reacting, neurotic, paranoid administrators.

    I already know we’ll be having problems with schools as my son grows- he has serious issues with unquestionable authority and always asks “why” when told to do something. (He’s already 4, and will be starting school in 2012) I’m taking his first day of kindergarten off work, just in case.

    All of my friends will be receiving a copy of Lenore’s book for Christmas if they have children. Maybe it will make me seem a little less crazy! Ha.

    In today’s world of over protection and fear mongering a case by case review of behavioral problems could work wonders!

  68. I just passed this scenario on my 10 year old son and he didn’t think the behavior this child exhibited was at all normal. My initial reaction was the same. Kids that age are generally pretty modest. This may have been a sign that something was amiss with the child.

  69. Marie,
    Really? Your studying to be a teacher and you don’t know that every 4 year old on earth says “Why?” about 50 million times a day. That really gives me pause. Do they no longer teach any child development at all? There’s a reason kindergarten doesn’t start until age 5-6.

  70. I think the 8 year old’s behavior is pretty normal for a boy. I remember my brother showing me crude drawings he made of male genetalia at that age. If he had a camera phone back then he probably would have taken a pic of his penis too. LOL It’s natural for a boy (for a girl too, but I think boys make it more obvious) to be curious and obessed over their junk. To lump this poor kid in with sex offenders is sad. I feel so bad for him and his family.

  71. I am from Germany and I have to say that free range isn’t so much of “a given” there anymore. For teenagers who are given the opportunity to get wasted from 13 on, maybe. But that is something I don’t agree with because when your teen gets wasted enough to throw up every weekend you don’t get to call it free range parenting, that’s neglect. But for kids? Not so much. Especially upper middle class parents are becoming increasingly “helicopter parenty”.

    My son is six and goes to soccer once a week. Every time parents squeeze into a TINY room to “help” their kids. Those are 6-8 year old boys. They are very well capable of changing clothes, throwing their sports clothes in their bag and walking from the changing room to the door to meet mom or dad. Well, no. If that isn’t helicopter parenting, I don’t know what is.

    I think the only reason Germany, Mexico etc. has more free range parents is that kids go to school for only about four hours there. Most parents still work about eight, after school care is only for the younger crowd and costs money. Therefore it’s socially acceptable for kids to be “latchkey children”. And since everyone is doing it, the judgement aspect is gone.

  72. Perhaps the school felt it was more important to protect the many other children on campus than to allow your child to solicite attention using a photo he should have been taught not to take.

    I would imagine the school wanted to stop this behavior just in case there were psychological causes for it.

    They are responsible for all of the children’s safety and so most likely meant to drive home how serious a situation this might be.

    They don’t know, love or trust your child. They cannot take chances.

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