Annie's Mailbox: Teacher concerned with pupil’s behavior

Dear Annie: I’m a public school teacher with 20 years of experience, but this one has me shaken.

The sweetest and brightest of my 9-year-old students spends most of the day positioning herself so she can rub against her chair in a way that gives her pleasure.

Her previous teachers noticed this, too, and it was brought to the principal’s attention when she was in first grade.

Out of concern, he contacted Child Protective Services, but they said it was a non-issue.

The principal brought the parents in, and they said it’s “just something she does” and the pediatrician told them it was normal.

I’m not sure there is anything normal about a student spending the entire day masturbating on her plastic chair. Fortunately, none of the other students is mature enough to notice.

I suspect the girl doesn’t realize how frequently she’s doing it. It almost seems obsessive-compulsive.

It certainly wouldn’t be appropriate if a boy were doing the same thing all day long in class.

I know toddlers do this, but grow out of it. Are the parents covering something up? I imagine terrible things happening if she does it in a public place where a predator might be lurking.

Budget cuts have limited our psychological services. In first grade, the teacher used to take her chair away and make her stand, but the parents complained that this was humiliating to her.

I’m not sure what a teacher is supposed to do in this situation.

— Concerned Teacher

Dear Concerned: “Natural” does not mean the behavior is acceptable in public.

All young children masturbate. Responsible parents teach them to do this only in private, and most children stop by the time they reach kindergarten.

You and the parents should work together to make the girl more aware of her behavior and to help her control it.

At school and at home, it should be explained to the girl that this is something to be done in her bedroom or bathroom.

When you notice her rubbing herself in school, simply call on her to get her attention focused elsewhere.

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