lights-on-top-of-police-carKids will be kids, and kids will do stupid stuff, but this week a 12-year-old girl in Florida was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery for pinching a boy in her class on the butt. She says it was an innocent game, the boy disagrees, and now both sets of parents are furious about it.

According to Fox News, 12-year-old Breana Evans pinched a boy in her class on the butt two weeks ago in what she maintains was just an innocent game that lots of kids in her class were doing. She seems to think that makes it OK, but the boy whose butt she pinched did not agree and complained about the pinching to the school.

The boy reportedly told the school resource officer that he did not want to press charges–which he could have, because pinching his butt like that is assault–and the girl was merely suspended. Kids are kids, but a 12-year-old is old enough to know that it’s not OK to grab someone else’s butt without their consent.

But then a week later the boy’s mother called the authorities and said she wanted the girl to face charges. Legally she’s within her rights to do that, but it does seem like she should follow her son’s lead in this. If he doesn’t want charges pressed, it seems like his mother should listen to him. 

The girl was reportedly read her Miranda rights, charged with misdemeanor battery, and put in a police car and booked in a juvenile detention facility. That’s very serious, but it’s not the life-ruiner it sounds like. If she completes a behavioral program, does community service, and passes a drug test, all the charges will be dismissed and her record will be completely clear.

These are still very serious consequences for a pinch, but it does not seem like Evans or her father actually think she did anything wrong. The girl says she regrets pinching her classmate, but she specifically says that she regrets it because she got in trouble, not because it’s wrong to grab people’s asses against their will.

“I regret it because i didn’t know it would lead to this,” she said. “I feel like it’s just stupid, just a stupid charge that shouldn’t have to happen.”

“Lord Lord Lordy what has this world come to. Kids can’t even be a kid,” her father said.

This all seems really familiar to me. The world is not short on stories about boys grabbing girls’ butts or kissing them against their will and then saying the girl can’t take a joke and that it’s just “boys being boys” or some ridiculousness like that. It doesn’t suddenly become more OK because the aggressor is a girl in this case. Kids need to learn to respect consent and other people’s bodily autonomy while they are kids, otherwise how will they know it when they are adults? 12-year-olds are not too young to understand consent, or even the basic lesson of keeping their hands to themselves. But normally we can teach these lessons to kids without pressing actual criminal charges against them.

The girl might have thought it was a joke, but the boy obviously didn’t, and the butt belongs to him, so whether or not the pinching is OK is for him to decide. Criminal charges are an extreme response, but it sounds like someone seriously needs to teach that entire class about consent and not groping other people against their will, even as a joke, and even if other people are doing it.