A group of middle school boys started a “Pedo Database” because adults didn’t take their complaints seriously.
There is something seriously wrong when 6th and 7th grade boys recognize an adult male’s behavior toward preteen girls as creepy and adults fail to act.
And yet, that’s exactly where we are.
According to a Boston Globe article by Amanda Milkovits, the 6th grade boys saw their male teacher “leering at some girls, singling them out with pet nicknames, encouraging them to dance for him. They saw him treating boys with contempt, and sometimes cruelty.” The boys “tried talking to adults about what they heard and saw. None of the adults listened or took them seriously…”
The behavior continued when the children progressed into 7th grade. Despite the (in)action of the adults around them, the boys knew something was wrong. They started a “Pedo Database” on Discord to track and document the teacher’s behavior.
How Stereotypes & Assumptions Affect Adult Actions (& Inaction)
The boys used Discord to track their teacher’s behavior…
If you’re a parent or teacher, you’re probably not a Discord fan. Discord, an instant social messaging app, has a reputation as a dangerous place. Google “Discord kids” and the top results include “What Parents Need to Know About Discord,” “Dangers of Discord,” and “The Dark Side of Discord for Teens.” And yes, bad things happen on Discord, just as they do in the real world and on every other social media app every invented. But Discord itself is not evil. Discord is a tool, and these boys used it to document disturbing behavior. However, most adults assume that boys on Discord are “up to no good.”
Adults also often assume that middle school boys are “exaggerating” when they complain a teacher. Many parents and teachers are quick to dismiss a boy’s perception of an incident because they don’t trust the boy to be a reliable narrator of his experience. Many adults believe that middle school boys — and boys and men in general — are “trouble” and therefore believe that any concerns reported by the boys are actually self-serving attempts to stay out of (or get out of) trouble.
Most adults also inherently trust others adults more than they trust children. They assume that adults understand and exemplify proper behavior — and assume that 6th grade boys do not understand proper behavior.
Socially, we are primed to accept the explanations and actions of other adults — and primed to discount the complaints of 12-year-old boys.
No one acted on what the 6th grade boys said. No adults acted when the boys (and girls) were in the 7th grade, so a few boys took it upon themselves to track unusual behavior in real-time. They even told the incoming class at the database and encouraged those students to continue.
The “creepy” teacher in question was escorted from the classroom in April 2022, according to the Boston Globe, and placed on leave amid allegations that the teacher stalked a preteen girl and behaved inappropriately with others.
The boys were not surprised. Now, their “Pedo Database” is in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Adults Worry About Teaching Boys Consent & Yet…
There has been so much handwringing in recent years over the need to teach our boys consent. Conversations about the important of sexual consent moved to center stage during the #MeToo movement, and there has been a concerted effort to help our boys understand that “no means no.”
Our boys get it. Many of us adults do not.
Maybe we should not be surprised by that fact. After all, today’s boys have grown up surrounded by conversations about consent. They regularly see men held accountable for unacceptable behavior. To today’s teens and young adults, Bill Cosby is a sexual predator, period. They are growing up in a world in which women and girls demand — and largely get — respect. That is their normal.
In contrast, we adults grew up in time and place where sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment were so common that the song “Cherry Pie” hit #10 on the Billboard Top 100 and “Sixteen Candles” was a beloved teen movie. Bill Cosby was America’s Dad; Harvey Weinstein, an Oscar-winning producer. We grew up blind to consent. We’re learning alongside our kids — in fact, the #MeToo movement was the first time that many of us realized that a lot/many/some of our sexual encounters weren’t entirely consensual.
We adults do not have it all figured out. Many of us are struggling mightily to understand and adapt to new sexual and social standards. We are slow to act, still playing out a social script we were handed when we were teens.
That’s gotta change. We must listen to our children. We must challenge and discard our stereotypes and dated thinking. We must recognize the wisdom, compassion, and empathy that lives in 12-year-old boys – and dismiss our tendency to disregard everything they have to say.
Our kids know what respectful behavior looks and sounds like. It’s time to listen. And time to act.