• Can a six-year-old intend to commit a sexual offense?

    Date: 08.10.11 | by Judge Tom.

    A Philadelphia charter school was faced with this issue in March, 2010. The unnamed child was expelled from the school after touching his teacher’s thighs after she complained that her legs hurt. He told her that he wanted to make them feel better. When questioned by his mother, he explained that he wished he was a doctor so he could help people.

    The child’s parents sued to clear his record and lift the expulsion. The court, considering only the one incident,* ruled in June, 2011, that the school abused its discretion. The judge ordered that the explusion be expunged from the boy’s record.  In his ruling, the judge wrote that “In permanently expelling a six-year-old kindergarten student that had only been in school for seven months, the school made a gross abuse of discretion that was not supported by evidence in the record.”

    Photo by U.S. Army Africa (Flickr)

    The boy’s teacher admitted she regularly received hugs from her students, but that the boy’s contact made her feel uncomfortable. The judge sent the case to mediation. In the meantime, the boy has been going to a private school with no significant behavior problems.

    If this child had been older, criminal charges could have been filed against him depending on applicable state laws. “Intent” is an important element of many crimes – the state’s burden is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of an alleged offense. Do you think a young child, preschool or kindergarten, can form the necessary “intent” to sexually assault or touch another child or adult? How should a teacher handle this type of situation?

    *This boy had previously been suspended for touching a girl’s bottom while under a table picking up crayons. He was also suspended twice for shoving and tripping classmates.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


    3 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 11 Aug 2011 at 12:41

      New blog post: Can a six-year-old intend to commit a sexual offense? http://ow.ly/1ebI6U

    • Tulsa Divorce Attorney
      Tue, 16 Aug 2011 at 03:36

      Yes they can, but under the law a child 7 years old or younger is presumed to not be able to form the requisite intent to be able to commit a crime or a tort.

    • Leah
      Sun, 18 Dec 2011 at 05:02

      that’s messed up if the teacher felt so uncomfortable why didn’t she confront the child and tell him to keep his hands to himself she is the adult and he is the child she should really mature a little bit at six years old i really don’t think he could have anything sexual on his mind when he touched her leg
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Leah.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>