Monday, August 20, 2007

Compelled to convict?

Is our society getting a little over zealous in convicting our children of a sex offense, when they are only children playing pranks? Why are we trying to ruin the lives of our children, children who will bear the scars of over-zealous adults that probably did the same thing when they were young? It saddens me to see the way our schools have become police states, not a place of learning, but a place of fear – fear that anything you do may be ‘held against you’. The ‘zero tolerance’ rule has done more harm than help.

Case in point – two seventh graders in Patton Middle School in Oregon will forever have a mark against their names. It doesn’t matter that they probably meant no harm to anyone. And, besides that, it wasn’t just these two youngsters, but 5 more, including a girl. They said it was ‘slap the butt day’. I wonder why all the kids were not charged. Was it because one was a girl? I also wonder why this couldn’t have been handled in this school, rather than going to the extreme and labeling these two young boys as sex offenders. Boggles the mind!

Now, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, face the prospect of 10 years in juvenile detention and a lifetime on the sex offender registry in a case that poses a fundamental question: When is horseplay a crime?

All told, Roache interviewed 14 students besides Cornelison and Mashburn. Seven confessed to bottom-swatting, including one girl who described it as "a handshake we do." Two of the alleged victims said they had swatted boys' buttocks themselves.

I can remember my young days in school. Kids do crazy things (horse-play) that do not amount to a ‘hill of beans’. And, I don’t know one person who was traumatized by silly things kids do when they are young. The boys would put their hands on a girl's shoulder to see if she was wearing a bra – silly boys do silly things when they are young and have their eyes on girls – SO do girls!
The outlines of the case have been known. But confidential police reports and juvenile court records shed new light on the context of the boys' actions. The records show that other students, boys and girls, were slapping one another's bottoms. Two of the girls identified as victims have recanted, saying they felt pressured and gave false statements to interrogators.

Children need to be able to have a life – not have to be scared that an innocent touch is going to follow them the rest of their life in the way of having to sign up as a sex offender. Something major is wrong in the fabric of our society. As children get older, they realize certain things are not appropriate, and given time, they change. I feel that many parents press charges against kids that should not be. Their parents or possibly the school (in this case, from what I’ve read) pressures kids to say things they are not comfortable with in order to build a case against the kids involved. Why can’t we teach our kids that these things aren’t appropriate, let them live a child’s life, and deal with appropriate punishment rather than labeling them as sex offenders for life? Children are not perfect; neither are their parents. They learn from their parents and peers. And, I believe these kinds of offenses should be handled on campus, not in the court of law, where it is going to drain these families, making it hard for them to ever recover.

HT: Susan’s Blog

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