Two 13-year old Oregon boys face criminal sexual harassment charges for allegedly spanking girls and touching their breasts. A teacher’s aid spotted Ryan Cornelison and Cory Mashburn running down a hallway and slapping the bottoms of several girls, according to The Oregonian. The two boys and five girls involved were then interrogated by a police officer and the schools’ vice principal, acknowledging that the boys had also grabbed, touched, and poked girls’ bottoms and breasts in the past.
Originally, the boys faced felony sex abuse charges ‘ charges that could have landed them lifetime registration on the sex offender registry, according to KATU, a Portland news station. After several months, the charges were reduced to misdemeanor sex abuse, which were eventually dropped completely. The boys still face harassment charges. If found guilty, they could serve a maximum of one-year in juvenile detention.
The case of Cornelison and Mashburn has sparked debate over whether officials brought criminal charges too quickly, The Oregonian reports. Christina McMahan, the director of the county’s juvenile justice program, responded, saying, “Our value is by handling these as a formal court proceeding it sends the message to the youth and the public and to the victim that we as a justice system takes this very seriously — and they need to, too.”
Sexual harassment affects 89 percent of girls in grades 2 through 12, Michele Paludi writes in the Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Thirty-nine percent of girls report experiencing sexual harassment every day at school. Although sexual harassment has consistently been a major problem in the US, many school officials still don’t know how to recognize or deal with sexual harassment issues, according to an American Association of University Women report.