A 13-year-old boy has been arrested for allegedly kissing a 14-year-old girl at Pikesville Middle School in Maryland on a dare. The boy has been charged with second-degree assault as a juvenile for what many call an innocent kiss.
As police reported to Fox 45 Baltimore, no one was injured in the unwanted kiss. The boy reportedly kissed the girl during school hours after he was dared to by other students. In addition to the pending assault charge, it's now the school's responsibility to suspend or expel the boy because of the alleged kiss.
If this kiss was as innocent as described, there's no denying that the arrest of an eighth grader for participating in a dare is a bit much.
But that doesn't mean it's an issue we can sweep under the rug.
What are we missing? What are we failing to consider as we rage against this young boy's unfair arrest for typical teen antics? It's called consent.
Consent. Consent. Consent.
It's worth repeating because it's so rarely talked about, with kids especially. And it's because consent doesn't come up in everyday topics of conversation between their parents and their kids that we keep seeing horrifying headlines in the news: Campus assault has gotten out of control, even being called an "epidemic" among female freshman students in upstate New York, where more than 18 percent experienced sexual assault within their first year. High school football teams have made the news for raping teenage girls and posting pictures to social media. Even worse, since high schools and middle schools don't have the same federal reporting standards as colleges, most rapes go unreported. Only two percent of reported rapes lead to a felony conviction.
There's something terribly wrong here, and it goes much deeper than an unwanted kiss given on a dare. As parents, we have no place to point the finger but right back at ourselves. Kids in high school and middle school are just that — they're still kids. And if our sons aren't learning about consent at home, and if our daughters aren't taught about the right they have over their own bodies, it's no wonder these shocking sexual assault statistics continue to skyrocket.
When a story like this breaks about how a teenage boy was unfairly arrested for kissing a teenage girl, it's easy to have a defensive, knee-jerk reaction — that could be your son, after all. Or, it could be your daughter.
We aren't doing our kids any favors if we continue to argue over the unfairness of this arrest. We aren't doing our kids any favors if we don't start talking to them about consent. As Angela Rose, executive director of Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, recently told SheKnows, our kids are sorely lacking education on consent and rape culture. The best time to start this conversation is when they are young, says Rose, by teaching kids how to have ownership of their bodies and to respect the bodies of others in age-appropriate ways. As kids get older and enter high school, relevant news stories can be used to spark the conversation and teach real-life consequences — like how grossly inappropriate it is to circulate pictures of sexual assault on social media.
This conversation sounds complicated, but it really isn't. It's a conversation that applies to our sons and our daughters, and it's a conversation that we need to start having as soon as possible. One innocent kiss may be just that, but as parents, we can't have it both ways. If we want sexual assault at school to be taken seriously, then giving consent to a kiss is important. It still falls under the umbrella of teaching children to respect and honor the boundaries of someone else's body.
It's never too young to start teaching consent.
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