The spank heard ’round the world
By Eric Uthus, The Daily -- University of Washington, August 1, 2007

“Boys will be boys” tends to be the typical catchphrase parents use when their male children do something borderline stupid. If anything, it’s a send-off to the age of innocence under which most young boys live, a time when they are free to get away with most anything because, well, they’re kids. They don’t know any better.

Yet apparently a child’s ignorance or lack of responsibility, or whatever you want to call it, causes him to continually do silly things that can also lead to life as a sex offender.

This happens to be the case for two junior high students from Patton Middle School in McMinnville, Ore. They were punished back in February for running down the hall and slapping several female classmates’ butts.

Should these kids really be placed in a juvenile detention for 10 years for an immature act that most youth have committed?

According to The Oregonian, they now are on trial for 10 misdemeanor charges, including five sex abuse counts and five harassment counts. If convicted at their Aug. 20 trial, these children would receive juvenile detention for up to 10 years and would be placed on the sex offender registry.

To put this in plain English, a pair of boys who slapped the backsides of some 13-year-old girls (in what most people would assume was an act of flirtation) are now being placed in the same league as pedophiles who go around having sex with 13-year-old girls. I just don’t get it.

To make matters worse, or particularly more absurd, according to several interviews conducted by the school staff shortly after the event, the butt smacking was considered by some of the girls as “a handshake we do.” They even admitted to spanking some of the boys’ butts in return.

I assume, in what should be proclaimed a matter of “fair justice,” that these two victims will be prosecuted for their acts of sexual deviance. That would definitely make sense.

What happened to children’s innocence? Why would some think that children, especially those going through puberty and therefore feeling weird sexual emotions, should be fully responsible for their actions and be given a punishment worse than most adults would receive?

Undoubtedly, if something starts off slightly innocent, like spanking, it could likely evolve to poking, groping and eventually squeezing. But isn’t that what many teenagers do consensually?



The writer of "The spank heard ’round the world" (August, 1 2007) neglected to pursue his own line of argument to its obvious conclusions. He asked, "why would some think that given a punishment worse than most adults would receive?"

Now let's be honest, and let's be thorough. Spankings are not punishable offenses -- that is, when they are inflicted by adults on children. Our lawmakers were very careful about that. They wrote the applicable statutes using such vague, subjective language that spankers must land a child in the hospital or worse before they've crossed the invisible line. Moreover, when adults in positions of authority, including teachers in 21 states of the US where paddling is still legal, smack children on the buttocks, the act is deemed beneficial and is widely applauded. When children engage in exactly the same behavior, however, it's called "sexual battery," and a nationwide hue and cry goes up to "lock up the little perverts!" Do I detect an element of hypocrisy in all this, or am I missing something?

Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE); Web site: "Project NoSpank" at

To the contrary, Bradley Berry, a local district attorney from that area, believes that such cases can be extremely traumatizing for the victims and that therefore the two boys should be given the full punishment. Furthermore, last year he charged two other boys from the same school with a felony for sexual abuse for repeatedly slapping a girl’s bottom.

Why couldn’t this incident have been dealt with in the confines of a school? Students who acted out were once taken to the principal’s office, where they received punishments such as detention or a phone call home. These days, childhood incidents seem to be thought of as criminal cases where the strict rules of the law are dealt.

Should these kids really be placed in a juvenile detention center for 10 years for an immature act that most youth have committed? Apparently, a talk with the principal or their parents is no longer enough.

Boys will be boys; why is it suddenly so wrong?

Reach reporter Eric Uthus at



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