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5-Year-Old Cited for Sexual Misconduct for Taking Off Pants on Playground

5-Year-Old Cited for Sexual Misconduct for Taking Off Pants on Playground

Being a five-year-old is kinda weird. You are no longer considered a toddler, though some of your clothes may have a “T” for toddler after the number. Still, you’re not quite a big kid, an honor that seems unfairly awarded to those in the first grade. Sensible isn’t a word that is often described for a five-year-old’s actions, largely because decision making is based on impulse rather than logic.

This is the mindset that kindergartner Eric Lopez was in when he was on the playground at school in April. While playing with a group of kids at Ashton Ranch Elementary School in Surprise, Arizona, one of the students told him to pull his pants down. It’s unclear what Eric’s initial response was. However, the other student said that if Eric didn’t do it, he would do it for him. So Eric pulled his pants down. This is perfectly logical for a five-year-old.

For the principal and the Dysart Unified School District, it was not.

After witnessing the incident, a teacher took Eric to the principal’s office. It was there that the principal reportedly discussed the incident and why what he did was wrong. Then the principal pulled out a form, and checked off that Eric had been talked to and had told his side of his story. Eric was then told to sign his name on the document. He only signed his first name, because that’s all he knew how to do.

The form indicated that Eric was being disciplined for sexual misconduct.

The policy describes indecent exposure (because a five-year-old’s bottom is indecent, apparently) is a form of sexual misconduct. In this case, “depantsing” was the indecent act. Furthermore, the district noted that even though the form labeled the actions as such, the situation was discussed in an age appropriate manner and did not include that phrase. Fortunately for Eric, he can’t read yet so he doesn’t know what he signed.

Administrators must be present but they are not compelled to call parents unless requested by the students. However, being five and not being told he could do so, he did not. The principal did not inform Eric’s mother until after the disciplinary meeting had taken place. When his mother, Erica Martinez, found out, she was told that she could appeal.

The district denied her appeal and now the infraction is part of his permanent record for his entire school life.

After more than two months of fighting the district’s actions, which included detention for Eric, Erica Martinez has decided to go public with her story. In an interview, she pointed out what should be obvious to any adult with a modicum of common sense.

“He’s a 5-year-old. He does not know right from wrong yet. My son is not a sexualized minor,” Martinez said.

While it is mind boggling to Erica Martinez, and to any other adult who has heard the story, is the idea that this level of harshness is being dealt on a child who was, well, being a child. It is unclear why the situation could not have been discussed with Eric – and his mother – and solved with a simple “let’s do better next time.” Kindergarten is the beginning of learning how to deal with socialization and boundaries. Punishing a child so harshly for a mistake is not conducive to teaching the lessons he needs to learn.

One of the key elements of identifying an offense is consideration of the child’s age and maturity. A five-year-old pulling his pants down in response to what could be deemed a threat is not sexual in nature, nor does it indicate sexual misconduct. It also does not help to have such a label follow him for the rest of his school life.

Martinez said that Eric only signed the document because he was told to (as any five-year-old in the presence of an adult authority figure would do). She wants to have the document pulled from his file, or at the very least have the sexual misconduct charge removed from the form. In response, the district said Ms. Martinez can write a letter expressing her displeasure with the determination, which will be kept in the file along with the incident report.

If you would also like to “express displeasure” with the idea of having a kindergartner labeled with sexual misconduct, please sign this petition to encourage the Dysart Unified School District to change their mind.

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175 comments

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7:59PM PDT on Aug 23, 2014

I feel that even at5 years of age a child knows that taking your pants off in public is not the thing to do even if someone threatened to do it for you. This child should have refused, went to find a teacher and told her what the other kid had threatened to do. To have his on his school record is so stupid!

12:25PM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Holly M., What in the world did this child do that required discipline?

12:23PM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

I've read far too many incidents like this and can only wonder what is going on with the adults who so over-react. All that was needed was to tell this little boy to keep his pants on and not do silly things just because somebody else tells him to...and to let a teacher know if someone ever does something again like telling him to take his pants off. By the way, as long as the administration was going to be silly enough itself to consider this child "sexualized" (whatever the heck that means) and have him sign a form agreeing, in essence, that he was guilty of sexual misconduct, then where was the form to be signed by the other kid who bullied him to "depants"?

5:50PM PDT on Jul 13, 2014

Why the heck wasn't the other kid (who told him to pull his pants down) disciplined as well? I don't think "sexual misconduct" is an appropriate label for it anyway. Of course, if the poor little boy told a teacher that the other kid threatened to pull his pants down, he would have been told to 'Stop tattling'!

3:57PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

There is a really big problem with treating children like adults.The principal was right in talking to him about why it is wrong.He was also right in disciplining him.But to have it on his permanent record at 5 years old is not even reasonable.Also,to not involve the parents should be grounds for a LAWSUIT.The govt is trying to take control of our children.These school administrators are morons.

12:37PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

Jamie C: So what did you do when you were 17 that got you charged, tried and punished as an adult? You CAN'T really believe that there is no difference between 5-year-old's and 17-year-old's. 14-year-old's complain about being treated like children because they are now "grown up" and 17 is only one year shy of being legally an adult. What about the 17-year-old who kills someone the day before his or her 18th birthday? Are they an adult or a child who "doesn't know any better"? If 17-year-old's are no more responsible for their actions than 5-year-old's, then we need to change all the driving laws so you cannot get a driver's license or even learn to drive before the age of 20. And then there is the ability of teenage girls to get birth control or have an abortion or for any teenager to see a doctor without a parent present and having full access to their medical records. Need I go on? Your comment was completely asinine.

7:18AM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

Petition signed with the comment: If this is the way principles and superintendents deal with children, no wonder kids don't learn anything worthwhile in school.

3:07AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Both Children should have been spoken to

9:36PM PDT on Jul 10, 2014

Too incredible for words..It won't be long before changing a baby's nappy is sexual molestation.

4:38AM PDT on Jul 9, 2014

It's kind of funny that you say "Sensible isn’t a word that is often described for a five-year-old’s actions, largely because decision making is based on impulse rather than logic" as many say the same about teens, and even some people in their 20's. Perhaps the fact that he didn't tell his mom that he got in trouble is enough for me.

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