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School Daze

October 30, 1994

Nina J. Easton's "Insult and Injury" (Oct. 2) was a thorough and insightful look at a difficult and troubling issue. As a parent deeply involved in a sexual harassment issue at my daughter's school, I came up against the conflict between punishment and education. The school's nasty and harsh punishment of one student and the total educational neglect of all involved made a bad situation worse. Perpetrators of sexual harassment must be held responsible, but they also must be educated if we are to have any hopes for long-term change in the way men and women treat each other.

My daughter's questions early in the course of the problem were: "Why are you calling this sexual harassment? Isn't it just mean?" Young people need to know when normal, harmless teasing crosses the line into sexual harassment.

Susan Sullivan

Topanga Canyon

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I was in the seventh grade in the early '70s, living in a white-bread community much like Petaluma, when a rumor that I was pregnant circulated. The heckling was brutal and constant. One time, while I sat on a bench at lunchtime, about 40 kids gathered around me, jeering, shouting, laughing and throwing french fries that caught in my hair.

The dean of boys thought a fight was in progress and pushed through the crowd. I recall his blank, puzzled expression when he found at the center of the melee a lone, pimply, frightened 11-year-old girl.

After finding lunch sanctuary in the school library, I started my long descent into depression, and no one intervened. My effortless high grades dropped, I refused to participate in class, I gained substantial weight and wore the same clothes day after day in an attempt to become invisible. I was already a bookworm and a loner, and this situation forced me to turn inward, to become my own person and stay solid, no matter what happened in the outside world. I got a good look at an ugly but undeniable fact of human nature, and it made me strong. It made me who I am.

That's life. File it away and move on.

Name Withheld

Los Angeles

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No, no--Easton has it all wrong when she writes that what school districts need at this time is "widespread teacher training and a curriculum designed to teach children how to treat one another with respect." What we need are parents who teach their children the parameters of acceptable behavior in all aspects of daily life.

Nor is it that teachers "need to educate those children, and they're not doing it." The parents of those children should have trained them from day one.

Teachers should be trained to teach academics while the students' home training is being reinforced. We must stop expecting teachers to be surrogate parents.

Helen M. Kvitky

Laguna Hills

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Just what kind of wimps are we raising in this country?

As a heavy kid who spent 12 years in the New York City public schools, I was tormented daily in ways that Jane Doe probably cannot comprehend. Most of it was at the hands of some very aggressive pupils, badgering me for my lunch money, or just for the hell of it. They were hassling me simply because I I was an easy, too-sensitive target.

I remember getting laughed at because I referred to a "pussycat" once during story time, not understanding the sexual implications, and how one of the girls in the back of the room hiked up her skirt in order to to underline the allusion.

My reaction to these incidents and others like them was not to cry, whine to the authorities or complain to my mother. Instead, I reached the conclusions that (1) most people are idiots, (2) multiculturalism is a license that allows certain individuals to do as they wish with no fear of reprisal from cowed authorities and (3) naivete is for the birds.

In other words, I grew up. Peer pressure became irrelevant, so drug use and sexual promiscuity passed me by. As for Jane Doe and her so-called abuse, I've got three words of advice: Deal with it.

Judith Lucas

Los Angeles

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