Rude Boy

The Making of a Schoolyard Sex Offender

J.J.'s transfer to another second-grade class "initially brought about some improvement." Carmona recalled that J.J. desperately sought acceptance in a boys' group of three second-graders. "[J.J.] has proved to be a positive influence in this group, a youngster who shows polite manners and conversational skills," Carmona wrote. "He also displays leadership qualities in guiding/reminding his peers when their behavior deviates from the group rules." But J.J.'s teacher began to detect "gradual deterioration" and a return to disruptive behavior. His faults were just as noticeable to Carmona. "[T]his examiner is concerned by [J.J.'s] daily attempts to stay in her office, stating his dislike of remaining in the classroom," the psychologist wrote. "He stated that he leaves the classroom because he gets mad [for] reasons unknown to him."

J.J. became emotionally attached to Carmona. "Although he was cooperative and put forth good effort in the tasks, he was restless in his seat and needed to be coaxed to sustain his focus and motivation," she wrote regarding her sessions with him. "He . . . tended to lay across his desk, and later moved to the double cushion chair, eventually laying down on it. Later, when the examiner momentarily went to the adjacent office, she came back to discover [J.J.] 'missing.' " But J.J. was "very quietly hiding under the cushioned chair." He told Carmona "his actions [were] a retaliation towards the examiner for 'tricking' him on a puzzle activity which had presented a great deal of difficulty for him."

During the testing, J.J. reacted in an agitated way to street noises. "A car backfiring was perceived as his brother's dirt bike making noise; a lawn mower was perceived in a similar way," the examiner wrote. "He stopped to listen to somebody talking outside on the street. A few times during the course of this session, [J.J.] walked to the office door to [listen to] voices in the adjacent office."

illustration by Limbert Fabian

Carmona concluded that J.J. was prone to "acting out inner anger inappropriately." All of his drawings and stories "involved violence with retaliation imposed" by James Bond. "This singular focus prevails in his inner emotional life, which is capable of being expressed when [J.J.] reaches his tolerance threshold for meeting demands that are placed on him," she argued. "His figure drawing reflected a bewildered, helpless figure who is impulsively driven to pursue aggressive means as a protective stance against figures perceived as threatening to his physical well-being."

Two days after this alarming report, J.J. showed his library teacher who was boss. After he was told several times to stop talking and to get out of another student's seat, the bully "grabbed a little girl from behind, put one arm around her neck and scratched her arm with his free hand." Three weeks later, according to the father of one of his classmates, J.J. "punched my son in the face." (A month earlier he had choked the boy in class.)

J.J. continued to defy his teachers. About a week after the punching incident, while returning from lunch, a teacher complained that "[J.J.] left the back of the line, where he should be (I'd asked him four times already) and went in front of [another boy] and hit him as hard as he could." On May 20, six days before J.J. sexually assaulted the girls, Timothy Devaney, assistant to the principal, claimed he was attacked by the student with the explosive temper. J.J. had showed up in Mr. Perga's class late, slinging a yo-yo. "He refused to do any work and then said he was tired and wanted to call his mother," Devaney wrote. "Mr. Perga said he couldn't leave unless he was sick. He got up and left without permission." Devaney later tried to reason with J.J. in the principal's office.

"He would not cooperate when I gave him paper to write down what was wrong." Several times Devaney asked J.J. to put away the yo-yo. "I took the yo-yo away from him and he scratched me and kicked me away," Devaney charged. "He went behind the counter and dumped the drawer of emergency cards onto the floor. He then took his bookbag and left the building. The security guard . . . called him back and brought him to the office."

As J.J.'s behavior worsened, his academic performance weakened. The Board of Education again tested the troublesome student who had a "tendency" to write backward on the blackboard and misspell house as hoe. During a science quiz, the examiner noted that although J.J. knew that humans need a nose to help them breathe and "what it is called when the earth shakes so hard that things fall down," he was "unable to identify a picture of a kangaroo" or say what a skunk does "to protect itself from its enemies." This, the examiner added, put J.J. "at the low end of average" in such proficiency tests. Asked to recite the popular childhood nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb," J.J. got as far as saying, "It's fleece was white as. . . ," and then drew a blank.

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