11 December, 2006

Children and Touch

The story of the 4-year-old boy suspended for "sexual contact" after hugging a female aide at his school has been widely reported, but something Ala said at Moby Rebuttal got me going again:

I am calling for this aide to be evaluated by a court-appointed psychiatrist. Seriously. This is someone that works with children everyday and obviously has some deep-rooted issues...This is someone whose mind immediately went to sexual contact when hugged by a four year old... La Vega Primary School would be remiss to let this incident pass without addressing the red flags it immediately sent up in my mind.

I agree that the aide has some serious issues. Anybody who has worked with small children knows that they have a very different sense of personal space than adults (not to mention that a healthy child that age has little/no concept of sexuality). I mean, there were perfectly well-adjusted kindergarteners I taught who hadn't yet learned that showing your underwear under your skirt was inappropriate (or at least weren't yet self-aware enough to notice when they did it).

I can't count the number of little Kindergarten hands that ended up by accident on my butt when I was a music teacher! Or times I was sitting on the floor in a circle with children and a child wanted to hug me, which meant heads/hands often ended up on my chest and neck.

Then there were the encounters with the very smallest children who didn't stand as tall as my hipbone when they hugged me. Due to their height, tiny hands would end up in awkward places. I'd just take their hands and move them up to my waist. They didn't know they'd done anything wrong, and usually didn't consciously notice I'd moved their hands (if it was an older, developmentally-disabled child who had trouble with social cues, I might add, "Put your hands here when you hug me"). Or there were the times after circle games sitting on the floor when the entire class would joyfully dogpile me and I'd swear every inch of my body had a little hand covering it.

This is just ridiculous. And yeah, that the aide felt sexually threatened by it just speaks volumes about her and her ability to interact in a healthy way with the children in her care.