*The parents of a Massachusetts grade schooler are still demanding answers after he was accused of sexual harassment and reported to the state in 2019, when he was six-years-old.
The dean of students at Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville told the boy’s mom, Flavia Peréa, that a girl reported her son had touched her inappropriately in their first-grade classroom. The dean characterized her son’s alleged conduct as sexual harassment and said the school would have to report it to the state.
The dean didn’t mention notifying the police, specifically. But a while later, Perea was stunned to receive a voicemail message from a Somerville detective. She couldn’t believe that her 6-year-old boy could be the subject of a police inquiry for sexual harassment.
More than a year later, Peréa is still seeking basic information about what happened that day in the first-grade cubby area, reports the Boston Globe. She wants to know why school officials rushed to notify authorities, and whether racism influenced their actions: Her son is Black and Latinx; the girl is white.
The Boston Globe reports:
“They don’t see a little boy. They see a criminal,” said Peréa, a sociology lecturer at Harvard University and director of the Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship. “The first thing they did was call the police.”
School officials have repeatedly defended their actions to Peréa in meetings and in written communications that Peréa shared with the Globe, arguing they were following state rules. But Peréa can see no justification for involving the police. In Massachusetts, children under the age of 12 cannot be charged with a crime, according to state law.
Peréa’s quest for answers, unfolding against the backdrop of a national reckoning over racial injustice, has taken her on an unexpected odyssey into a disturbing world familiar to many older children. It is America’s school-to-prison pipeline, a term describing how schools’ discriminatory approach to discipline and close relationships with police disproportionately steer Black and Latino students toward incarceration.
Law enforcement and DCF never took action against Peréa’s son. The school never disciplined him. And he and the girl finished the year in the same class. Yet he now has a paper trail at several powerful governmental agencies: the police department, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and the state Department of Children and Families, whose intake report from the school system describes the incident as “sexual assault” and her son as the “alleged perpetrator.”
Watch a “Good Morning America” report about the matter below: