A 7-year-old Queens boy who was suspended from school for sexual harassment after he kissed a classmate and tore a button from her skirt was reinstated on Wednesday, as chagrined school officials weathered a wave of criticism and said they would review the school system’s harassment policies.
The second-grade boy, De’Andre Dearinge, missed three days of classes at Public School 104 in Far Rockaway but was permitted to return after his parents met on Wednesday with the school’s principal, Gerri Perriott. Perriott sent the boy home last Friday with a letter handing down a five-day suspension.
The incident came on the heels of a similar case that drew worldwide attention to a small town in North Carolina and became fodder for talkshow hosts and columnists suggesting that “political correctness” was beginning to claim under-age victims.
Few voices were raised on Wednesday to defend the initial decision to suspend De’Andre, with everyone from the mayor to experts on sexual harassment suggesting that school officials had overreacted. But the incident, and the storm that followed, gave a hint of how sensitive the issue of sexual harassment has become, with business executives, educators and others fearful of liability if employees or students contend they have been harassed.
But with many companies holding seminars to explain what constitutes sexual harassment, parents, school officials and experts contended on Wednesday that a 7-year-old was unlikely to understand the concept.