Johnathan Prevette, the 6-year-old punished for kissing a classmate, is not alone. When a Worcester mother came to pick up her son from school a few weeks ago, the teacher told her he had been made to sit in the “time-out chair.” He had violated the behavior code by hugging other students. “He’s a toucher,” the teacher said. “We are not going to put up with it.” The mother was startled, not by her son, who she knows to be loving and who, indeed, likes to hug, but by the school for punishing him. Her son is three years old.

What the mother does not know is that for the past 10 years, feminist groups such as the American Association of University Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund have been successfully lobbying the federal government to impose strict harassment codes in the schools. In August, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a 26-page guideline on the subject of “peer harassment.” No age limits were specified. As Norma Cantu, an Assistant Secretary of Education explains: “What our regulation anticipates is that sexual harassment could occur at any age.”

A spokeswoman for the National School Boards Association complained that the OCR’s guidelines “appear to be more involved with trying to help plaintiffs’ attorneys win cases against school districts.” Fearful of lawsuits, schools feel they have no choice but to punish six-year-olds “harassers” like Johnathan Prevette or even toddler “harassers” like the 3-year-old Worcester boy.

The little boys are casualties of a movement that scapegoats men and boys and seeks to protect women and girls from what Gloria Steinem calls the “jockocracy.” Feminists like Patricia Ireland and Steinem sincerely believe that ours is a sexist society that wages an “undeclared war against women” (Susan Faludi’s subtitle to Backlash). Such feminists think most adult males are incorrigibly sexist, and that boys must be retrained — the earlier the better. Nan Stein, a director at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, refers to be little boys who chase girls in the playground and flip their skirts as “perpetrators” and “gender terrorists.” Sue Satell, a sex equity expert in Minnesota, justifies strong harassment policies for children as young as five because, “Serial killers tell interviewers they started sexually harassing at age 10 and got away with it.”

While the boys need reeducation, the girls need all the help they can get to survive in the “patriarchy.” Consider the girls-only holiday “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” — an annual event organized and run by the Ms. Foundation. Reacting to growing protests over the boys’ exclusion, the Ms. people decided to initiate “Son’s Day,” a separate annual holiday for boys. Among the the suggested activities for “Son’s Day.”

  • Take your son to an event that focuses on…ending men’s violence against women. Call the Family Violence Prevention fund at 800 END-ABUSE for information.

  • Make sure your son is involved in preparing the family for the work and school week ahead. This means: helping lay out clothes for siblings [and] making lunches…”

In short, this punitive little holiday was contrived by women who are convinced that what our male children need most is indoctrination.

Boys as well as girls must be given every protection the schools can reasonably provide. In a survey conducted by the Louis Harris polling firm, a random sample of 1,500 boys and girls (grades 8-11) 85 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys surveyed say they have experienced “unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with their lives.” The results confirm the obvious: that there is a lot of crude, disrespectful, and untoward behavior in our schools.

The solution does not lie in a gender divisive policy that regards girls as a victimized class and boys as culprits, but in policies that give the schools greater powers to control anti-social behavior of all kinds. Instead of inviting litigation against the schools by doing the bidding of NOW and the AAUW, Secretary of Education Richard Riley should be looking for ways to help them make the schools of safety and respect for all children.

Embarrassed by the negative reaction to the Prevette child’s punishment, feminist activists are seeking to distance themselves from the school’s initial decision to suspend him. “Clearly Title IX doesn’t reach a little boy kissing a girl,” says Verna Williams, of the National Women’s Law Center. “Those of us involved in research and law would never call this sexual harassment,” says Wellesley’s Nan Stein.

Wouldn’t they? It was the Women’s Law Center’s support of “peer harassment” lawsuits and Ms. Stein’s incendiary descriptions of little schoolboys as perpetrators and gender terrorists that have brought us to this sorry pass. As long as Ms. Stein, Ms. Williams and others in the flourishing gender bias industry exert their special kind of anti-male influence on government policy and the schools, male children will continue to be targeted.