Amid a tidal wave of negative publicity, a Colorado school system has let a 6-year-old boy return to school and said it won’t classify his kissing a girl on the hand as sexual harassment.
The story of first-grader Hunter Yelton made national news and spurred outrage this week after word spread that his school near Colorado Springs suspended him for the kiss and accused him of sexually harassing the girl.
On Wednesday night, CNN affiliate KRDO reported that Canon City Schools Superintendent Robin Gooldy met with Hunter’s parents. The superintendent then changed Hunter’s disciplinary offense from “sexual harassment” to “misconduct.”
The boy has also returned to school at the Lincoln School of Science & Technology.
Boy’s mom: An innocent crush
The boy’s mother, Jennifer Saunders, told KRDO the whole thing stemmed from an innocent crush Hunter had on a girl in the class. He kissed her on the hand during reading group. That landed him a two-day suspension from school and an entry of sexual harassment in his school files.
Saunders admitted Hunter had problems at school before, getting suspended for rough-housing and for kissing the same girl on the cheek.
But the label of sexual harasser outraged her.
“This is taking it to an extreme that doesn’t need to be met with a 6-year-old,” Saunders told the station “Now my son’s asking questions, ‘What is sex, mommy?'”
Girl’s mom: School was right
Jade Masters-Ownbey, the mother of the girl Hunter is accused of kissing, told the local newspaper that the school district was right in protecting her daughter.
The mother, who is also a teacher in the school district, said Hunter had tried to kiss her daughter “over and over” without her permission, according to Canon City Daily Record.
“I’ve had to coach her about what to do when you don’t want someone touching you, but they won’t stop,” Masters-Ownbey told the newspaper.
School system: Look at both sides
Reaction online to Hunter’s story was swift, with the majority of commenters expressed pure outrage.
Gooldy, the superintendent of Canon City Schools, told HLN on Tuesday that students aren’t labeled sexual harassers after the first innocent grade-school kiss. But if unwelcome contact or touching continues, it will be noted in the student’s file, he said.
He said the school system had to look at all sides of the story.
“Our main interest in this is having the behavior stop because the story is not just about the student that was disciplined, it is also about the student receiving the unwanted advances,” he said.