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A Colorado school that had been widely criticized for suspending a 6-year-old boy for kissing a girl on the hand has dropped its sexual harassment claim against the first grader, and allowed him to return to school.
The superintendent of Canon City Schools decided to drop the sexual harassment claim Wednesday after meeting with the parents of Hunter Yelton, KRDO reports. The Dec. 4 incident is now being classified as misconduct.
Yelton's mother, Jennifer Saunders, said her son had an "innocent crush" on the girl and kissed her on the hand during a reading group.
But the mother of the girl, Jade Masters-Ownbey, said that Hunter had tried to kiss her daughter "over and over" without her permission, and that she supported the suspension.
"Not once, but over and over," Masters-Ownbey wrote on Facebook. "Not with her permission but sneaking up on her."
"I've had to coach her about what to do when you don't want someone touching you," she told the Canon City Daily Record. "But they won't stop."
Hunter already had received an in-school suspension for kissing the same girl.
Saunders said she understood the most recent suspension, but that the sexual harassment label was unwarranted.
"This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a 6-year-old," Saunders told KRDO. "Now my son's asking questions, 'What is sex, mommy?'"
The school district initially defended the sexual harassment charge, saying it expressly prohibits "unwelcome touching, such as patting, pinching or repeated brushing against another's body."
"Our main interest in this is having the behavior stop," Canon City Schools Superintendent Robin Gooldy told HLN Tuesday. "Because the story is not just about the student that was disciplined, it is also about the student receiving the unwanted advances."
"Our job as a school is to basically maintain a safe learning environment for all children in the school," Tammy DeWolfe, the school principal, told the local paper. "And that's certainly what we're trying to do here."
Gooldy added that it was "strictly a school discipline issue," law enforcement was not involved and that no criminal charges had been filed.