A ten-year boy has just been charged as a sex offender as a result of a schoolyard game of tag that got out of control. As reported by the local CBS news affiliate: “the fourth-grade students were playing a game of tag that escalated when a boy began making inappropriate comments and movements toward the girls. One of the boys also wrapped his arms around one of the girls.”

Obviously, this incident should not be dismissed as a “boys will be boys” prank. The comments were very sexually aggressive. The boys should be disciplined, and, even more importantly, taught the error of their ways. But charging a 10-year-old as a sex offender is a devastating, merciless response. The boy has been charged with a fourth-degree sexual offense. Even if he avoids prison time, under Maryland law someone convicted with a fourth-degree sexual offense will be put on a sexual offender registry for fifteen years. This casts serious doubt on whether he will ever go to college or find gainful employment.

This sort of devastatingly punitive treatment of children is not an anomaly and it destroys the lives of girls and boys alike.

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