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  • Nikki Mantell

Kids and toxic talk

This week we have a letter from a Wakefield parent describing a disturbing event in which a group of older elementary school boys intimidate and harass a handful of younger girls with degrading sexist language. (See our Letters page.)

Some readers will decide to take it with a grain of salt, saying it’s ‘just words’ or it’s ‘just kids’ or maybe even ‘boys will be boys.’ They shouldn’t.

Words have power, and their toxicity should not be underestimated. In the adult world, we have collectively decided that sexist hate speech is no longer tolerated. If this incident had happened to a group of women, the offending men could be charged with sexual harassment. Time is up for this kind of talk. It’s not OK for anyone to intimidate and denigrate someone based on their gender – and that message needs to start early with our kids.

The incident has sparked some soul-searching for the involved families, and the author of the letter has let us know that they have received three out of four requested apologies, which is good news. Though an awful incident, there can be a real positive take-away for other parents: they