Every day, in virtually every preschool everywhere, children push and shove. They call one another names. They tell on one another like theyre prepping for the Witness Protection Program.
And, just like in an NFL game, the one who hits back usually gets penalized with a timeout.
Preschool teachers learn to referee and defuse these tiffs. Lots of redirection, one local preschool director described it. In most cases, an adult can tell a 4-year-old, Chucky, you need to say youre sorry. The aggressor backs off, both kids go back to running around, and the issue is forgotten within minutes.
Parents usually arent there to see these daily dust-ups and how theyre handled.
Which brings us to the case involving Rod Olsen, husband of Assemblywomen Kristin Olsen. Hes been accused of causing a child to suffer during an incident at a soccer practice in August. The complaint states that Olsen became enraged because a 4-year-old boy grabbed Olsens son and called him a loser.
Olsen, according to the court document, grabbed the other kid by the arm and then verbally abused the childs mother and grandmother. After the practice, mom Ashley Heapy noticed her son had wet his pants and had bruises on his arm where Olsen allegedly grabbed him.
These are allegations to this point, and Olsen will have the opportunity to refute them in court. The court of public opinion, however, isnt so patient.
Reporter Erin Tracys story, published Tuesday in The Bees print and online editions, drew roughly 80 comments, none defending Olsen. In fact, some commenters accused the district attorney of filing a misdemeanor instead of felony charge because Olsens wife is such a prominent member of the community.
Kristin Olsen served on the Modesto City Council before winning her Assembly seat. Rod Olsen served briefly on the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee, resigning when the family moved to Riverbank and out of the committee district he represented.
Whether he is acquitted or convicted, the charges pretty much quash any political aspirations Rod Olsen might have entertained. Whether this incident hurts his wifes political future remains to be seen.
The childs father, Matt Price, was among those who posted on Facebook wondering why Olsen isnt facing a felony charge. Mark Smith, a retired DA investigator, responded to explain why that didnt happen. For this crime, in order for it to be a felony, there must be either intent to do great bodily harm or actual great bodily harm, he wrote. The District Attorney is only allowed to charge the crime they think they can prove, and with only bruises, there is no felony crime that can be proved.
The boys mom also posted. I want justice for my son and for Mr. Olsen, no matter who he is, to be responsible for the damages hes caused to my son, myself and my family, Heapy wrote. My translation: The Olsens are going to get sued.
Conviction for a misdemeanor for causing a child to suffer carries a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail, with other options including probation, counseling and a court order to stay away from the victim.
A 2006 case provides a basis for comparison. After seeing two of his sons injured one had to have his spleen removed on what he deemed dirty plays in the same game in Stockton, a youth football coach from Riverbank charged onto the field and attacked a 13-year-old player on the opposing team.
It set off a melee that was captured on video and shown on NBCs Today show. The coach, Cory Petero, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of inflicting injury upon a child, which could have gotten him a year in jail. Instead, a judge in San Joaquin County sentenced him to serve 45 days in jail or in an alternative work program, take anger-management classes and stay away from the victim.
Im not sure what is more amazing: that somebody elses 4-year-old boy could, indeed, cause a grown man to go ballistic or that in an era where everyone is toting electronic gadgetry, no one whipped out an iPhone, caught the alleged incident on video and then posted it on YouTube.
Most parents sign their kids up to play soccer and other sports for the exercise and to instill sportsmanship and the ability to get along with others. Young children are at the front end of that learning curve. Adults are expected to teach them by acting as role models.
Little children do push and shove and call each other names until taught otherwise.
In preschool, theyd handle it with a timeout. A judge could, too.