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ISSUE 117 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/12/2004

Boy Suspended; swimsuit issue the culprit

By Derek Zobel
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 12, 2004

Sixth grade is a time of growth and change in all young men. One day we notice how attractive the girl sitting next to us is, and a day later we think there isnt a prettier woman alive than our art teacher. Magazines with scantily clad women, such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, seem to take up more reading time than Nintendo. Such was the case for Justin Reyes, a student at Belpre Middle School in Belpre, Ohio. On Feb. 18, Reyes somehow got a copy of the swimsuit issue and brought it to school to share with his buddies. The principal of the school, Kathy Garrison, punished him on the grounds of nonverbal harassment and possession of lewd or suggestive material. Tim Swarr, the superintendent, agreed with Garrisons disciplinary actions. The original punishment given to Reyes was to spend two days in an alternative school where troubled students are sent from all over the district. Nicole Reyes, his mother, disagreed with the principals decision and refused to adhere to it. Because of this, the superintendent and principal decided to change the punishment to three days of out-of-school suspension. There are a few things wrong with this picture. The first and most important is that this young man is beginning to grow up. Should his first encounter with sexuality teach him that it is bad to embrace the man he is becoming? Its not like he was standing next to the bathroom charging his friends a dollar for 10 minutes to look at the magazine. It seems to me that he was merely looking at the women in the magazine with an air of curiosity. Teaching developing boys and girls that sexual feelings are bad is one of the worst things that school administrators and parents can do. Sex is an important part of life. The sexual aspect of a relationship is just as critical for happiness as emotional and spiritual connections are. Would we as a society want to suppress aspects of the physical manifestation of love between two people? Secondly, why pick on this kid? The material he was looking at is no worse than the Abercrombie and Fitch bags that his female classmates use to cover their math books. The women in the swimsuit issue are suggesting no more sexuality than those finely-sculpted, half-naked men in those catalogs. In fact, those superficial men on the bag are intertwined with superficial women, which is more sexually suggestive than the swimsuit edition. Also important was the material the boy possesed. He wasnt looking at anything sexually explicit, but a magazine where the women were at least wearing some clothing. Furthermore, the first punishment of sending him to an alternative school for troubled students shows the sheer ignorance of the administration and their inability to handle this situation. It would be worse for the boy to spend two days with kids undergoing punishment for physical violence or drug usage. That kind of exposure would only threaten the boys future. His crime does not deserve punishment or that caliber. Some argue that whatever the material depicts is irrelevant because it is still degrading to women. The problem with that argument is that women are often seen as objects of sexuality in advertisements, television and other forms of media. Reyes is not going to be, and, more importantly, cannot be shielded from this material throughout his entire adolescence. He needs his parents to show him the proper way to treat and respect women as he matures and learns more about being a man. Reyes still has plenty of time to learn that respect.

Contributing Writer Derek Zobel is a sophomore from Bloomington, Minn. He majors in art history and English.

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