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First-grader accused of sexual harassment

Tasha Lynch’s son, Mark Curran, 7, is being investigated for sexual harassment after striking another boy in the groin. JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF/Boston Globe

A Boston elementary school is investigating a 7-year-old first-grader for sexual harassment after he struck another boy his age in the groin.

But the mother of the accused said her son was fending off the other child, who had choked him in an altercation on a school bus on Nov. 22.

“I think my kid was right to fight back,’’ said the mother, Tasha Lynch, 30. “He wasn’t doing anything except protecting himself.’’

Lynch’s son, Mark Curran, who wears his light-brown hair in a Mohawk, said he has been afraid to return to Tynan Elementary School in South Boston since the fight.

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“They can’t promise me that it’s not going to happen again,’’ Lynch said of school officials.

Matthew Wilder, spokesman for the Boston public schools, declined to comment on the incident or why it has been classified as a possible case of sexual harassment. He said officials do not discuss confidential student information.

“Any kind of inappropriate touching would fall under that category,’’ Wilder said. “The school administration is conducting a full investigation that has not concluded yet. Certainly, once that investigation is through, we’ll then make a final conclusion as to who will be disciplined and how.’’

The interim school principal, Leslie Gant, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Lynch offered her account of the fight yesterday as she and her son sat in the living room of their Dorchester apartment, where Mark watched cartoons.

That Tuesday afternoon, she said, she met her son at his bus stop. As he stepped off, he looked as if he were about to burst into tears.

When she asked him what was wrong, Lynch said, he told her another boy had choked him and taken his new gloves. Lynch said she stormed up to the bus driver and asked him what he saw.

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“He just smiled and shrugged,’’ she said. Lynch said she called the school repeatedly but got no answer.

The following Monday, Lynch said, she told her older son, who is 11, to take Mark to the principal’s office and explain what happened.

“I just thought they were going to call the parents, tell us both to come in and make the boys shake hands,’’ Lynch said. At best, she said the other boy would apologize and return her son’s gloves.

Instead, Lynch said, officials kept him inside the office and began questioning him.

Lynch said the boy later told her he was so rattled by the questioning he told school officials he started the fight.

“They didn’t believe me,’’ Mark said softly. “I didn’t get my gloves back.’’

Later that day, Lynch received a message from Mark’s grandmother, telling her that school officials were trying to reach her. Lynch said she spoke with Gant, who told her the school had called the state Department of Children and Families to report the incident.

Gant said Mark confessed to punching the other boy in the groin, according to Lynch. But later Mark said he had kicked, not punched, the student.

“She said, ‘It doesn’t matter who hit who first,’ ’’ Lynch said. “ ‘He said he hit him in the testicles. That’s assault. That’s sexual assault.’

“I said: ‘The kid choked my son first and that’s called attempted murder. He said he couldn’t breathe,’ ’’ Lynch said.

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That day, Lynch said her older son came home from school with a letter from Gant, telling her that Mark had been accused of violating codes of discipline related to sexual harassment and endangering the physical safety of another student.

The school could suspend him or transfer him to another school, the letter stated.

Cayenne Isaksen, spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, said yesterday that she could not find a record of a complaint against Lynch or her son.

Wilder declined to comment on any possible calls to the state, but said generally they are legally obligated to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the agency.

“We’re mandatory reporters as a school employee,’’ he said. “We have to report any type of accusation of sexual assault or sexual harassment that is reported to a school employee.’’

Lynch said she does not want her son to ride the bus until school officials assign an adult monitor. She said officials have told her to come in Monday for a hearing regarding the incident.

Wilder said either Gant, or the school principal, Eileen Morales, who has been on leave, will act as the hearing officer.

The hearing officer could call in various witnesses, including the two boys, though Wilder said it is unlikely they would be called at the same time.

Lynch said she has been trying to find a lawyer or an advocate who will help defend her son at the hearing.

“He said he felt totally alone,’’ she said. “Nobody believed him. Nobody was there for him.’’

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Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.