In 2006 a first grade boy touched the inside of the pants of a first grade girl sitting in front of him in his Brockton School District elementary school in Massachusetts.  The girl told the teacher who told the principal (mistake number1).  The principal told the police (mistake number 2), the Department of Social Services (mistake number 3), and the District Attorney’s office (mistake number 4).  Maybe the do-gooders and defenders of the honor of first grade girls were upset when they were told that the State of Massachusetts does not charge juveniles under  age 7 with crimes.  Lucky for the little dude he wasn’t 7 or the Massachusetts anti-sexual harassment police might have gotten a conviction and tagged the kid for life as a sex offender.

Being smarter than your average Massachusetts Brockton School District elementary school principal you probably guessed what happened after mistakes 1 – 4.  Yep.  Parents sued everybody involved.  The city settled for $240,000 ($160,000 for the boy, $20,000 for his parents, $60,000 for their attorneys fees).  The city also paid $50,000 to defend the lawsuit.  There are probably a lot of lessons to be learned by the teacher, the principal, the school district, the police and the district attorney, but will they learn.  Based on this case, maybe they should change the name of that TV show to “Are you smarter than a first grader?”

How is it possible that the school personnel involved in this story can be hired and retain their jobs?  Can educators really be that stupid?  Maybe the educators reacted out of fear they could be sued if they did nothing.  Is this an example of the terrible burden placed on our society by out of control lawsuits and litigation?  See for example a two part interview (part 1 and part 2) in the Wall St. Journal with Philip Howard, an attorney who has written two books on this topic.  Mr. Howard’s first book, “The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America,” discussed the need for legal reform arising from problems resulting from regulatory and bureaucratic inflexibility.  His second book is “The Collapse of the Common Good: How America’s Lawsuit Culture Undermines Our Freedom.”  This book is about how the threat of litigation restricts individual choice.

For more see “Sexual harassment settlement for Brockton boy costs city $180K.”