What do second graders know about oral sex?

Parents and community members in Oakland, California are outraged about two incidents in the same elementary school classroom in which second graders ran around partially disrobed and two students performed oral sex on each other.

The story came to light when one of the second-grade students reported the incident. The district spokesman, Troy Flint, says that they think this event “evolved from curiosity.” Okay, kids are definitely curious about their bodies, but how do these children know about oral sex? This story challenges my ideas about children and sexuality. I think children should not be shamed for exploration because it’s natural for kids to experiment with their bodies and with their peers. However there is a fine line between natural sexual exploration or repeating behaviors they have seen or experienced in an inappropriate situation. This requires some investigation about what’s going on with these children at home.

The teacher has been suspended with pay. I understand that teaching is a difficult job, especially when you lack resources and have an overcrowded classroom. But how haywire does it have to get when you don’t notice children running around partially naked and performing sexual acts on each other…in two separate instances? According to researchers and doctors from Perdue University, children choose sex play because they are bored or uninterested in other things that are happening. So does this highlight a lack of engagement or supervision in the classroom?

If the incidents are confirmed to have taken place, Flint said, it will be important to tell the children that “they are not at fault” and that any blame lies with teachers and other adults and their “egregious lack of supervision.”

I hope that these children aren’t shamed for their actions and that there is some guidance given to the parents to help them talk to their kids. We will not help young people by teaching them that nudity and sex are bad, dirty, shameful and, most of all, should be kept a secret. We want to encourage healthy sexuality, particularly so that they grow into young people who feel equipped to ask questions and make wise decisions as they get older, meanwhile we want them to understand that there’s a time and place for everything. Without a sensitive approach to these children, the adults involved can create additional secretive and unsafe environments. Emphasizing secrecy around sexuality and sexual behavior, even unintentionally, can be a recipe for disaster.

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