Susan Goldsmith of the Oregonian delves into the troubling case of two middle school boys in McMinnville, Ore., who spent five days in juvenile jail and now face serious criminal consequences in connection with a butt-slapping incident last February. The papers says the case “poses a fundamental question: When is horseplay a crime?” The two 13-year-old boys face the prospect of 10 years in juvenile detention and a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
It began when the boys ran down the hall of their middle school swatting the bottoms of girls–what some kids later said was a common form of greeting for both genders. But bottom-slapping is against policy, so a teacher’s aide sent the seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school interrogated them. The officer read the boys their Miranda rights and hauled them off in handcuffs to juvenile jail. One leading expert called the case a “travesty of justice” and part of a trend in which children as young as 8 are being labeled sexual predators in juvenile court, where proceedings are often secret.