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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/27/2012

Hand-holding, sunscreen and ponytails: Is the heat affecting judgement?

Sometimes there are too many outrageous stories at once to choose just one to write about. When that happens, it’s a good bet it’s summer.

There’s something about the hot weather that seems to bring out bad judgment. You can decide whose judgment was worse in some of the parenting stories we’ve heard about in recent days.

Let’s start with my nominee, the Tennessee legislature for passing new “no hand-holding” legislation.
Uh-oh. (Jimmy Miracle)

This is a law that says that sex education teachers can’t teach about any activity that might be a “gateway” to sex.

What activities, pray tell, might that include? Legislators were too shy to spell those out — hence critics dubbed it the anti- hand-holding bill — so we just have to use our imaginations.

Never mind that the whole point of sex education is to make sure that kids aren’t relying solely on their hormone-fueled imaginations, or that Tennessee has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation.

But before we single out only the misguided legislature, it’s instructive to know that the law was prompted by complaints from an outraged parent. In 2010, a Nashville father came home to learn that his 17-year-old daughter had been treated in school that day to a live demonstration, complete with props, on how to safely perform oral sex.

Luckily, the new law spells out that curriculum cannot “display or conduct demonstrations with devices specifically manufactured for sexual stimulation.”

Glad we cleared that up.

Now, let’s go to Washington State, where two sisters came home from a school field day last week so severely sunburnt that their mother took them to a hospital.

The girls had been complaining of the sun and school officials had even commented on how burned they were getting, their mother later said, but the officials stuck by a policy that bans sunscreen for the kids — but not, apparently, for the teachers.

The story reminds me of last summer’s episode in Maryland, where parents were angered to learn that camp counselors were not allowed to apply sunscreen to children. That now-rescinded ban was intended to prevent any inappropriate touching between counselor and child.

In Washington State, sunscreen itself is banned because, the Tacoma public school spokesman told ABC News, the additives in many sunscreens might cause an allergic reaction.

The girls’ mother, Jesse Michener, said in a blog post she wrote that one of her daughters saw a teacher applying sunscreen to herself and asked if she could use some. The teacher declined and told the girl that the sunscreen was “just for her.”

It’s unclear whether officials also said the shade was “only for us.”

Finally, I wrote yesterday about recent evidence that we may be raising an especially spoiled generation. Well, not if a certain Utah judge has anything to do with it.

This saga centers on a 13-year-old who was hauled into juvenile court in May because of an act of childish cruelty.

She and a friend met a little girl, 3, at a McDonald’s and apparently distracted her and then snipped off her ponytail with a pair of scissors.

Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen ordered that the 13-year-old, who had also been accused of making harassing phone calls to another teen, be sentenced to 30 days in detention, pay restitution and perform 276 hours of community service.

Then, Johansen turned to the girl’s mother and said: “If she was my daughter, I wouldn’t want her with the (youth) work crew,” the mother told the Deseret News on Friday.

He said he would cut the community service hours if the mother agreed to, right then and there, snip off the girl’s own ponytail.

The mother did so reluctantly (in front of the 3-year-old’s mother, who urged that she cut the ponytail completely off).

But she now regrets it.

She has just filed a complaint against the judge, citing intimidation.

“She definitely needed to be punished for what had happened,” the mother, Valerie Bruno, told the News. “But I never dreamt it would be that much of a punishment.”

So, here we have a troubled kid caught between two turned-around adults: a juvenile court judge who pronounces a sentence and then suggests that that very sentence may endanger her safety; and a mother who is claiming that a minor punishment for egregious behavior is a punishment beyond her wildest dreams.

And the season has just begun.

Who among this crew wins your bad judgment award?

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/27/2012

 
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