That headline there is factually correct – an Oregon DA has dropped felony charges against two people who were slapping 13 year old girls’ asses. But there’s a twist – the persons charged (now with misdemeanor sexual assault) are 13 year old boys. (If you read the link, you’ll get their names, but they are minors, and I don’t feel comfortable publishing their names, so I’ve edited appropriately.)

[name redacted] and [name redacted], both 13, were arrested in February after they were caught in the halls of Patton Middle School, in McMinnville, Ore., slapping girls on the rear end. [redacted] told ABC News in a phone interview that this was a common way of saying hello practiced by lots of kids at the school, akin to a secret handshake.

The boys spent five days in a juvenile detention facility and were charged with several counts of felony sex abuse for what they and their parents said was merely inappropriate but not criminal behavior.

The charges themselves are artificially beefed up.

Confidential court records and police reports obtained by The Oregonian showed that other Patton students — boys and girls — were also slapping bottoms. Two female victims later recanted, saying they were friends of the boys and felt pressured to make false statements against them.

And, of course, this is putting tremendous strain on the families of the boys.

The families of both boys have struggled to pay their sons’ legal bills; the [2nd child’s] family’s phone was turned off last week because of mounting bills.

“I am very thankful [for the donations people have been making]. I can’t believe it,” said [the father of the 2nd boy], who is a press operator at the McMinnville newspaper. “It’s been really hard. I’m behind on bills and have a hard time sleeping because I’m worried about my son, and his life has really been changed by this.”

[The first boy’s] parents, Tracie, a hairdresser, and Scott, a print shop worker, had been preparing to refinance their home to pay for the legal bills. They said they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

“I’ve just been crying all morning because of the way people are supporting us,” said Tracie [redacted].

The kids still face the possibility of being branded “registered sex offender” for life, basically for participating in a desexualized “slap and tickle” ritual that was widespread at their school. Inappropriate behavior? Yeah, I’d say so. “Sex offender” type stuff? Hell no. Give ’em Saturday School and get on with it. But that would be “soft on crime” (see Genarlow Wilson).

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