In Florida, an 18-year-old girl named Kaitlyn Hunt engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. The parents of the younger girl are pressing charges of statutory rape. Hunt received an offer of a plea bargain that would have made her essentially unable to be with her sisters, who are underage. So she is fighting the case, and risking a 15-year prison sentence.
Some people say this is unfair discrimination because it’s two girls having sex. Other people argue that the issue is the statutory rape laws because the punishment is too harsh for the crime. I don’t think either one is the biggest problem – I think society generally feels distaste for any gender when there is a four-year age difference with kids that young. The inequality is too big for most of the country to stomach.
The real issue here is school. School is on trial. These girls were in school together. Given the ratio of students to teachers, these girls were largely unsupervised, they had no adult role model for most of the day. At the very fragile time when kids are experimenting and becoming adults is the most important time for kids to have a plethora of adult role models to choose from, according to psychologists Joseph and Claudia Worrell Allen. But school deprives kids of those role models.
We have reams of evidence that high school is a fragile time in a person’s mental and emotional development. And we have so much sociological and anthropological data coming from universities that teens are able to make much better decisions for themselves if they are unshackled from the unnatural constraints of school.
It’s unfair to blame an 18-year-old for having a typical high school crush on a classmate. It’s the fault of our school system that these kids have nowhere to turn for guidance. It’s the fault of school that 14-year-olds cannot pick who they want to spend their days with. It’s the fault of the schools that 18 year-olds cannot be doing more age appropriate things than spending eight hours a day with kids four years younger.
School is an efficient holding ground for kids to keep them out of the way of the rest of society. But that’s backfiring. We are not able to give kids the space they need to grow and learn about themselves in a healthy way. And now, we are punishing them for doing what is completely predictable: falling in love with a classmate.
Kaitlyn Hunt should not be on trial. The schools should be on trial. This is a witch hunt. We as a society can’t handle the reality of what we’ve created by locking kids up for eight hours a day. So, instead, we blame the kids for the behavior we set them up to do.