Speaking of disturbing groping incidents: WTOP’s new series on schoolyard bullying, “No Bully Left Behind,” contains some extreme accusations from one Montgomery County Public Schools mother. The mom of a second-grader at Rockville’s College Gardens Elementary School, who wouldn’t provide her name for fear of retaliation against her daughter, alleged that a couple of second-grade boys subjected her daughter (and other students) to a range of physical and psychological torture tactics over the past two years.
Among them: Punching, hitting, kicking, slamming kids into walls, holding kids down, death threats, graphic plans to carry out gun violence, threats to stab another kid in the eye with a pencil, and forming a “kill a classmate club.” At school. In the second grade. According to the MCPS parent, the abuse was also sexual: “there was genital groping and there were unwanted sexual nicknames,” she told WTOP.
The mother told WTOP that she reported the abuse to College Gardens staff, but says her concerns were shrugged off:
She went to officials at College Gardens Elementary School with her concerns.
“We were brushed off. They met with the boy that was accused. He denied it, and it went away. They said it didn’t happen.”
But she contacted other parents.
“And I simply said to them, ‘Did your child report anything unusual on this date?’ And I got back a fistful of responses.”
Sound familiar? This is what many adult women—-women who graduated the second grade decades ago—-experience on a regular basis. They are sexually assaulted; they say something; the accusation is denied; it goes away.
Of course, this second-grade alleged offender—-likely a 7- or 8-year-old boy—-can’t be held solely responsible for groping another child’s genitals. No: That boy has been raised in a system where this is okay. When the groper is a second-grader, he is, indeed, “too young to know better.” But that impulse to excuse away the groper’s actions doesn’t stop with second-grade offenders.
No one could argue that a second-grade girl was “asking” to getting groped. But as groping victims get older, commentators get more and more comfortable shifting the responsibility for preventing sexual assault to the victim—-telling her that she shouldn’t have gotten drunk, shouldn’t have stood in the pit at a concert, shouldn’t have worn a skirt, or shouldn’t have gone to a bar and sat facing the bar like any normal patron. When groping incidents occur in bars and rock shows and workplaces, the implicit message is that women don’t belong in these traditionally male spaces, and they deserve what’s coming to them if they enter them.
In this latest case, it looks like these messages are being sent to girls as young as 7 for having the gall to show up to elementary school. The good news is that some media outlets and law enforcement agencies are taking this seriously, even if the school allegedly failed to act on the complaint—-the concerned mother ultimately secured a restraining order against the offending second-grader.