Boy, 5, in Trouble for 'Sexual Misconduct' —for Dropping Pants

Experts weigh in on school policy of reporting wrongdoing

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 1, 2014 1:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – An Arizona mom wants answers as to why her 5-year-old kindergartner now has a "sexual misconduct" stamp on his permanent school file. Erica Martinez says her son, Eric Lopez, pulled down his pants and exposed himself when another student at Ashton Ranch Elementary School "intimidated" him on the playground. The superintendent of the Dysart Unified School District says administrators labelled the event as "sexual misconduct" per school policy, but Martinez argues her son doesn't even know what that means and his actions were far from sexual, the Arizona Republic reports. Eric was asked to sign a "sexual misconduct" referral without Martinez present, CBS News previously reported—though school officials say the signature only indicates he received due process.

Eric spent a lunch period in detention, but the referral will stay in his school record while he remains in the district. "This is a child's school record, and it's not something to be taken lightly," an expert notes. Labels like "sexual misconduct," another adds, could hurt a child this age if they're internalized. Kids need to be "put back on the right path ... rather than adults using adult words with kids that don't even really apply," that expert says, but the school says it's just following state guidelines for defining certain types of misbehavior. The status of Lopez's case is unclear—CBS reported last month that his mother's appeal to have the mark removed from his file was denied, but the Republic says she has not yet formally appealed.

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