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Published November 15, 2010, 12:00 AM

Annie's Mailbox: Girl needs to learn that some behavior private

Dear Annie: I’m a public school teacher with 20 years of experience, but this one has me shaken.

By: Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, INFORUM

Dear Annie: I’m a public school teacher with 20 years of experience, but this one has me shaken.

The sweetest and brightest of my 9-year-old students spends most of the day positioning herself so she can rub against her chair in a way that gives her pleasure. Her previous teachers noticed this, too, and it was brought to the principal’s attention when she was in first grade.

Out of concern, he contacted Child Protective Services, but they said it was a nonissue. The principal brought the parents in, and they said it’s “just something she does” and the pediatrician told them it was normal.

I’m not sure there is anything normal about a student spending the entire day masturbating on her plastic chair. Fortunately, none of the other students is mature enough to notice. I suspect the girl doesn’t realize how frequently she’s doing it. It almost seems obsessive-compulsive. It certainly wouldn’t be appropriate if a boy were doing the same thing all day long in class.

I know toddlers do this but grow out of it. Are the parents covering something up? I imagine terrible things happening if she does it in a public place where a predator might be lurking.

Budget cuts have limited our psychological services. In first grade, the teacher used to take her chair away and make her stand, but the parents complained that this was humiliating to her. I’m not sure what a teacher is supposed to do in this situation. – Concerned Teacher

Dear Concerned: “Natural” does not mean the behavior is acceptable in public. All young children masturbate. Responsible parents teach them to do this only in private, and most children stop by the time they reach kindergarten. You and the parents should work together to make the girl more aware of her behavior and to help her control it. At school and

at home, it should be explained to the girl that this is something to be

done in her bedroom or bathroom. When you notice her rubbing herself in school, simply call on her to get her attention focused elsewhere.

Dear Annie: We recently were invited to a farewell party for the son of family friends who is entering basic training. It’s an outdoor affair at their home, and the e-mail invitation says it is a “time to wish him well and enjoy food, fellowship, and fun.”

Are we supposed to bring a gift? Since he can’t take anything with him, should we give him a check? Is there an appropriate price range? – Just Wondering

Dear Just: You are not obligated to bring a gift since your friend’s son is likely to be allowed only religious medallions and his wallet. You can ask his parents if there is anything he needs. You also could give him cash, phone cards or gift cards, although he may not be able to use them for a while. The amount is up to you.

Dear Annie: I think you left out an important point in your response to “Sam in Pittsburgh,” whose sister wanted to use the family home for her vacation but didn’t want to pay anything.

By selling the house to Sam, his sister gave up her claim. It is no longer “the family home.” It is Sam’s property. She traded her interest in the home for the estate settlement. Now she wants the money and the use of the home. I say Sam should explain this and then change the locks. – Same Situation in Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Utah: It’s true that Sis may require a better understanding of what constitutes “her” home. However, if Sam doesn’t mind that she uses the place, neither do we, although she should not saddle him with her electric and water bills.

Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.