Why Was This 6-Year-Old Accused Of Sexual Harassment?

Is this the face of a sexual harasser?

Hunter Yelton, seen above, a six-year-old boy from Canon City, Colorado, was recently suspended from school for kissing a girl on the hand. Yes, you read that correctly.

“It was during class,” first-grader Hunter said in an interview with CNN affiliate KRDO. “We were doing reading group, and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That’s what happened.”

Not only did Hunter’s kiss get him suspended from school, but the school also accused him of sexual harassment.

However, after the story made national news, bringing a tidal wave of negative publicity, the Canon City school district had to back down: officials decided to let Hunter return to Lincoln School of Science & Technology and changed his offense from “sexual harassment” to “misconduct.”

offense from “sexual harassment” to “misconduct.”

According to some reports, this was not the first time that Hunter had been in trouble for a similar offense. He’d previously been disciplined for kissing the same girl on the cheek and “rough housing” her. Most importantly, the 6-year-old recipient of his attention had asked him to stop.


So, yes, Hunter needs to be disciplined; he needs to understand that boys do not have the right to bully girls. He knew what he was doing, and he needs to recognize that his behavior was inappropriate.


However, suspending this first grader from school and labeling him a sexual harasser did not help him learn him any of these lessons.

Blatant Over-Reach Of Zero Tolerance Policies

Such blatant misuse of “zero tolerance” policies is leading educators nationwide to question this get-tough approach.

It was after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 that schools across the county established zero tolerance policies. Obviously this was done with the best of intentions, but there have been plenty of unintended consequences.

More enlightened thinking in educational circles these days is questioning the use of suspensions as punishment. As many teachers are aware, kids often enjoy those days at home, when they can play games, watch TV, do just as they please all day long.

But there’s also mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates.

Indeed, the statistics show that this approach to discipline leads to a “school-to-prison-pipeline,” in which students — a disproportionate number of whom are African-American — are arrested and incarcerated for alleged infractions of school discipline that in some cases are as minor as defiance. This accelerates the path to dropout and a lifetime of entanglement with the law.

Restorative Justice

So it is encouraging to see more cities and school districts around the country rethinking their approach to minor offenses. Moving away from a culture of punishment, they are initiating positive approaches that keep children in school.

Restorative justice is the name of a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to “zero tolerance” policies like suspension, expulsion and truancy courts.

Since suspending students, or sending them to court, often leads to academic failure, thereby perpetuating the very behavior it is seeking to address, restorative justice instead provides a way of addressing negative behavior by keeping a student at school and using various means to encourage the offender to take responsibility and make amends.

The approach is taking root in schools in Oakland, Calif., as well as in Chicago, Denver and Portland, and also in Broward County, Florida.

As The New York Times reports, just two years ago, the school district had more students arrested on school campuses than any other district in the state, most of them for minor infractions.

Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.

These alternative efforts are increasingly supported, sometimes even led, by state juvenile justice directors, judges and police officers.

In Broward, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, the school district entered into a wide-ranging agreement last month with local law enforcement, the juvenile justice department and civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P. to overhaul its disciplinary policies and de-emphasize punishment.

Suspensions Down 66 Percent

As a result, school-based arrests have dropped by 41 percent, and suspensions, which in 2011 added up to 87,000 out of 258,000 students, are down 66 percent from the same period in 2012, school data shows.

Zero tolerance policies still have a place in our schools, when used with common sense. There are a host of infractions for which they are necessary, including bringing drugs or weapons to school and fighting. But they have no place in dealing with minor infractions such as a six-year-old kissing the hand of his classmate.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: KRDO online video


Barbara S.
Barbara S.3 years ago

It appears that far too many educators are street dumb and book smart. Couple that with "being on the alert for future perpetrators" and identifying them before they're old enough to develop malicious impulses has just gone over the edge of reality. Watch for the ones who love to step on bugs, kick small animals, or tie two cats' tails together. Kids at the age of 4, 5 and 6 can be reasoned with, if anyone knows "how" to speak to them and wants to take the time to do it. An affectionate child does not a rapist make...

Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson3 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

How stupid is this! Someone (his parents) needs to sit him down and explain to him that this is unacceptable today. That some people are too stupid to see it as a childish act. Why not let kids be kids without bringing sexual assault into it? A small child showing affection to another is reason for punishment? NO!

Hope H.
Hope Hoover4 years ago


It doesn't matter how you spin it. It doesn't matter if he kissed her once, or three times, what matters is he's 6 and this isn't sexual harassment. So there was NO need to apply the school's zero tolerance policy. That was over reacting, it was over reaching and it was plain stupid.

Hope H.
Hope Hoover4 years ago

Jasper, buy a clue. This boy needed taught to respect personal space, not punished for sexual harassment. Six year olds are exuberant. Sometimes they also suck at listening the first, second or even third time around. Dealing with them should never include iron-fisted totalitarianism. It should include FIRM but patient and very reasoned treatment.

He's at an age where a sense of personal responsibility should be cultivated as a response to the idea that he has transgressed against a person, not as fear or shame in the face of abstract punitive measures like expulsion. And no, there is absolutely no tie to be made between a rambunctious 6 year old's misconduct and that of a high school students. No comparison.

Did he need help understanding where his behavior went wrong? Absolutely. Did the school grossly overreact? Absolutely.

The article was not so much one sided as it was meant to focus on the ridiculous and patently nonsensical zero tolerance policies and how there are alternatives that yield more and better results in helping children who have wronged. Also, having read other articles from the perspective of the mother of the girl in question, it strikes me that she's being hyperbolistic and alarmist. Which, considering she works for a school system herself, puts a whole other level of suspect on that side of the story. It doesn't matter how you spin it. It doesn't matter if he kissed her once, or three times, what matters is he's 6 and this

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

This is just stupidity. This little boy was only trying to tell a girl he likes her. Adults need to stop trying to see more in children's behavior!

Gary A L.
Gary L4 years ago

jasper P you should stick to the topic and not indict all men because of your own agenda

Gary A L.
Gary L4 years ago

Karen H I wont say you hate men but the tone of your post indicates a person who has had some difficulties in life children of this age really don't nor should they have any sense of sexuality when i was growing up many girls chased boys and tried to kiss them this should be treated as an issue of respecting others right to their own personal space and not as fodder for those who have an axe to grind one way or another

Kelvin L.
Kelvin L.4 years ago

Our schools are truely turning into an expansion of our jail system...

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth4 years ago

This was completely crazy. Children being children and still learning about others personal space and a child this age would of had no idea of how badly his hand kissing would of been viewed even with being told once before not to kiss the girl. Often kids this age have to be told things more then once.