The viral video captures an incident that occurred between Denny Peterson, a physical education teacher, and his 14-year-old female freshman student during PE class. In the video, Peterson forcibly drags Sandra Garcia toward a pool to make her participate in class. Peterson has worked for Stockton Unified School District in Stockton, California, for more than 10 years.
The cell phone video captures 95 seconds of a strong adult male using force to drag a helpless young girl into a pool. The video was filmed by another student. Garcia's attorney Gilbert Somera confirms that the dragging took place after the teen refused to get in the pool because her hair was styled for an event later in the evening.
Instead of enforcing a regular school-endorsed punishment, Peterson took matters into his own hands — by attempting to force the teen into the pool. Now Peterson faces a charge of corporal injury to a child and is currently on paid leave.
Attorney Somera highlights what is really so wrong with this situation, "Regardless of her participation (in the class), it should disgust you how this man put his hands on a 14-year-old girl. She said multiple times, 'My top is falling down.'"
I know that to the outside observer, Garcia's reasoning to avoid pool time sounds ridiculous. Some internet commenters in the peanut gallery have even gone so far as to suggest that the teen should have cut class if she didn't want to get her hair wet.
But that's not really the problem here, is it? A teen girl should be able to have her own opinion, no matter how frivolous it seems. A teen girl should even be able to misbehave in class without fear of physical, forceful punishment from a man twice her size. Yes, Garcia should have expected some type of academic punishment for refusing pool time, but there's nothing in this story that warrants her being physically forced into a pool.
At the very most, Peterson's actions were abusive. At the very least, they reinforce the mixed messages that we are sending to our teenagers. Garcia's lawyer points out that this entire situation could have been prevented by following an important rule of consent: No means no, and stop means stop.
We tell our sons and daughters to respect other people's boundaries and ask for consent. But how can we expect them to listen when people in authority treat teenagers like this?
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