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Graphic Booklet Sent Home With Portland Schoolkids Shocks Parents June 26, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Joe Alvaro’s 10-year-old son generally knows what sex is.

But the Southeast Portland father wasn’t prepared for the questions from his son after the boy finished classes a week ago at Llewellyn Elementary School. Among them: What’s sodomy?

Turns out the fourth-grader came across the term, as well as descriptions of sexual abuse and other crimes in a 24-page comic-style booklet put together by the Portland Police Bureau and handed out to all the students, kindergarten through fifth grade, at Llewellyn.

The “Operation Safe Summer” brochure, distributed annually through Portland Public Schools to all district schools, mostly includes information about summer programs for children at the Oregon Zoo, Portland Parks and Recreation and other activities.

But this year, the Police Bureau included a new feature on the back page, which shows a buxom female superhero trumpeting “Measure 11 An Oregon Law.” The sheet includes a listing of crimes, such as manslaughter, unlawful sexual penetration and sodomy, that could cause juveniles ages 15 or older to be tried as adults. It also explains some violations, such as “Sexual Abuse 1: You are baby-sitting (sic) or playing with a small child. You have sexual contact with them by touching their penis, vaginal area, or anus, or by making them touch you in those same places. You will go to prison and could be there for 6 years and 3 months.”

Alvaro said his son was confused about what the information and the words meant.

“He wasn’t sure if they were saying he could go to jail about just the whole concept of touching somebody else,” he said. “These are all new concepts for him.”

His ex-wife, Kathleen Kramer, said the inclusion bothered her as well.

“It’s such a controversial thing to even teach sex in schools,” Kramer said. “I’d much rather it be in an educated manner” as opposed to using threatening wording about criminal acts, she said.

Portland police spokeswoman Detective Mary Wheat apologized for the inclusion, saying that the department originally wanted something to inform parents about Measure 11, although the end result went to kids. She did not immediately know how much the brochure cost to produce.

“Sometimes you just have to say we could have done this better,” she said, adding that she understood why parents would be concerned.

It is unclear how many schools distributed the booklets. After parents complained, the school district has since advised principals to recycle the brochures in favor of revised fliers, said Matt Shelby, a Portland Public Schools spokesman.

Shelby said the material does seem inappropriate for younger children. But he said it’s up to the principals of each school about whether and how to distribute it. Because the publication goes out each year, some principals may not have taken a look at the last page, he said.

Steve Powell, the principal for Llewellyn K-5, did not return several phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

The district itself does not usually review content that originates from a city agency, Shelby said. “I think we think that … the Police Bureau would understand age-appropriate content.”

But he did add he expects “there will be some follow-up.”



1. Erika - June 29, 2010

While the distribution of the pamphlet was misguided, the real issue is that Oregon still sentences youth as adults under Measure 11.

We don’t let kids be kids. Studies show that children are much more likely to re-offend if they’re held in adult jails. We would serve our children much better by offering treatment and support rather than long prison sentences.

Measure 11’s transfer of kids to adult court is AUTOMATIC and doesn’t allow for second chances for kids who can still be reached, children who we can still teach to be good kids. Oregon should be ashamed of having a law for children that gives them “One strike you’re out!” justice.