We went this first week of school so far this year without one of those moronic incidents typical of the occasional adolescent, typical of last school year, when it seemed we had some of these every few days: no SnapChat banter of an impending assault on any school, no bigoted threats against a teacher, no one brought a gun, a knife, a tank or an ICBM to school that we know of, and best of all, no one has been arrested, no one faces felony charges for pulling any of these gross misjudgments that end up changing the child’s life so we can all pretend that we’re keeping everyone else safe.
Because with an occasional exception that still doesn’t rise to the level of a frenzied response (children have been bringing guns and knives to school since before the days of show and tell), that’s all these incidents were. That’s how most of these incidents would have been treated until the Parkland school massacre, as we should treat the misjudgments of adolescents wired to act stupidly at times. They’re the sort of misjudgments that warrant intervention of course, but measured intervention. Detention, a few days’ suspension maybe, a judgment that must for the most part remain in school administrators’ hands, but in most cases not police intervention, not arrest, not a felony criminal record, not shaming in this retread of witch hunts.
The vast majority of those arrests don’t result in felony convictions, though this too is part of the system’s injustice: all the attention is on the supposed horror of the offense and the disproportion of the charge, but none of the attention goes to what’s usually a more even-handed resolution. We learn of the juveniles’ arrest, we’re even given their names in many cases, but from that point on, we don’t know what happens to them. Their school hearings are closed. Because they’re juveniles their court hearings are never announced, so we never learn how they’ve been walked back from the gallows. Even if their names are never published (as they rarely ever are) their reputation among peers is ruined, their dislocation from school assured.
We know in general that most of the students one way or another are able to continue their education, if on altered terms. They’re sometimes forced to stay home and take online courses or be monitored by home visits, which does the opposite of what disciplining for this type of infraction should do. It isolates the child, ostracises him or her and fuels more resentment than growth beyond that adolescent stage. It is the worst of possible outcomes. A stupid misjudgment becomes a defining factor in a child’s separation from peers and society. We’re making leprous examples of boys and girls in the name of security, which is to say we’re disciplining by terror instead of disciplining by wisdom. How does that not seed future violence? Even most first-time domestic abusers are sent to anger management and counseling, not usually severed from their family. Not so with children and their school family, though they may have done far less than the abuser.
A member of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas safety commission last week talked about how a kindergartener going to school for the first time told her she didn’t want to get shot. Adolescents express the same anxieties, usually more internally, at times more jokingly. It’s a normal psychological response, except that like everything else adolescent sometimes adolescent jokes misfire terribly. They reflect the anxieties of their world. During World War II they played at reenacting air raids and called each other Nazis when they were in foul moods. During the cold war they ridiculed those under-the-desk drills that would have saved no one, and they called each other commies. The taunts were absurd but no less absurd than those of the foolish child borrowing from the ambient follies of the day: shooting up a school.
Before the manic response to school shootings and the madness of zero-tolerance, those students would have been counseled and redirected, but not expelled. That’s not possible anymore. Because of the acts of a few mass murderers and the reactions of a few legislators, millions of adolescents now must watch what they say and police themselves as in a police state. I don’t care if times have changed. Adolescence has not. And laws should not pretend that it has, or that it can. If we’re asking adolescents to adapt, laws should, too. The law that Florida enacted after Parkland, making a felony of every stupidly threatening utterance by an adolescent, is ridiculously broad and harsh. It has none of the measure and nuance we ask our own children to exercise, none of the wisdom we ask them to reflect. It’s one-size fits all. But words are not evidence, misjudgment is not intent, though even when the offending child is found to be as unarmed as could be, as distant from a mass shooter as could be, the charge remains as if the child was weaponized for Parkland.
The most dangerous thing that happened to Florida’s schools last week was the meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas safety commission. It insists on acting like a revived House Un-American Activities Committee as it mortars its Maginot Lines of security edicts with recommendations for tougher rules directed at the wrong targets. It is the inspiration behind the rehabilitation of zero tolerance, of drills at the rhythm of boot camps, of the strange war of shame declared on school districts if they don’t fall in line.
The commission is attacking soft targets. Easier to attack school boards, to demonize children, to arm mercenaries and call them “guardians” and let the arms race solve all. Media devour the commission’s prolefeed. Like guns, the commission is sacrosanct, immune from criticism. Participants grandstand on the grave of victims every three months, all the while serving as a colossal red herring, detracting from addressing the cause of it all: our obsession with guns and our insistence on interpreting the Second Amendment as granting gun owners, sellers and dealers the rights of a protected class immune from reasonable regulations. “The misconstruction of the Second Amendment,” Craig Whitney wrote, “as an unlimited right not connected with any responsibility or civic duty has cost many more American lives than terrorism has.” But commissioners that condemned the one cop who didn’t confront the Parkland shooter refuse to confront the arsenals at large, the threat that has yet to be confronted. The NRA must send them roses at the end of every session.
Meanwhile schools, businesses (where the incidence of mass shooting is about six times greater than in schools), even private lives are reshaped as bunkers against violence, but the gun fetishists roam free, freer than they could before the Sandy Hook massacre. And so, those grim arrests of adolescents caught in the Kafka of Florida’s misdirected security regime.
Currently law enforcement has no choice but to intervene. They’re following the law. But the law should be baker acted: it is a danger to itself and to our children. We need a more realistic law that balances security and responsibility with children’s right to make mistakes and to learn from them. Punish them. But don’t crucify them. And for heavens’ sake don’t exile them from what remains, despite all, the safest, most nurturing state institutions in America: their public schools.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.
FPC Granny says
“EXCELLENT” article and well said!!! exactly what I have been trying to say over and over for a long time now that we have to let adolescents have some room to grow and breath without hovering over their every word and condemning them when the words they speak are used incorrectly or in anger and then thus destroying their lives with felonies and career paths destroyed, belittled and humiliated!! Teach them the correct way! Discipline them yes!! but not thru the police and courts!! Doctors who did wrong in Flagler County get a lighter sentence then teenagers that spout their mouths off!!
Happening now says
THANK YOU AGAIN!
Finally someone is speaking up for the kids.
I can’t believe it. I think this is the first article i have ever read on Flaglerlive that I completely agree with! I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see that there are others who understand this nonsense too! From personal experience, I know what expelling a child does to them. I also know that schools are one of the safest places to be! If only our lawmakers could remember being teenagers and listen to pediatricians who truly know the development of the brain, we’d be in much better shape.
Michael Bolchunas says
OMG, first time I agree with an article on this website…up until the end where you attack the second amendment… Other than that, right on… You cannot take adolescence away from children and the stupid mistakes that make them learn.
Thank you for this.
Nice article, but you left something out, evil kills.
“Detention, a few days’ suspension maybe,” a child including those in high school that bring guns to school and they do know what they are doing as these rules are now driven home by schools and parents ( or parents that actually care) know better than bring guns to school or threaten to harm others via social media, yes THEY KNOW BETTER.
You can start all of this way back when the goodie goodie’s started the movement to remove prayer from school and remove the word GOD from schools as it offends some, big freaking deal.
“The vast majority of those arrests don’t result in felony convictions” so true the justice system today sucks, lawyers get paid to get scum that have harmed others into lighter sentences, or even a slap on the wrist. There is NO deterrent anymore to stop violence, these punks when they do get convicted get to go to a prison where they live better than they did at a so called home. They get free medical, they can exercise, play with others, get TV, movies, they can go to the library and study and the even get a job not to mention they claim to find god. Well they can tell that to they people they harmed.
I lay blame for a lot of this on the violence in kids lifes, Violence on TV, be it the news or evening TV with rape, gangs, brutal murders displayed by the networks, movies that draw the young into some fantasy life and games where they can learn and act out their hate through first shooter games
It all starts at home. We didn’t have these shootings when I was a kid, why we still had god in schools, we have disciplined in schools and at home, we had a tougher justice system and yes we still had guns,
The thing is, evil doesn’t care about age . Kids kill, adults kill and they use whatever they can get to do harm to others. Sad really when our schools and churches once safe from violence are now attacked by pure hate.
It is all because are too busy or don’t want to step up to the plate and be a parent!
Lance Carroll says
…and there is an obvious epidemic of school shootings, which leaves us/society, virtually, unable to extend the benefit of doubt. Seems a better equation to err on the side of caution and safety as much as can be done. The point of view of this article is, in my opinion, way out of the scope of reality in these modern times.
Pierre Tristam says
Lance, safety is not the issue here. For example, the sheriff’s deputies’ recent training in our county to take down an active assailant was (is) necessary and admirable. But we can’t default all to policing and prosecuting while leaving the heart of the problem untouched.
This is about 2-3 times I agreed with you until you blew the last part with the mention of the 2A
This sounds like a manifesto to me.
I agree. Hold their parents liable for their actions.
Perhaps we should just decriminalize everything for everyone eh? Would that make you happy. Or if a man who has a family, robs a bank to get food for his family, would that be an “act of love” and a good reason to break the law? “Broken windows” policies work. Trust me, you do not want a lawless society, especially if you have failed endorse you second amendment. Every time a kid does something with a gun, you want RESPONSIBLE Law abiding adults to pay the price, I say no thank you.
Pierre Tristam says
Right Agkistrodon. That’s exactly where I was going with this: we should just reward every misjudgment with a certificate of achievement and Friday pizza parties and go a step further and free everyone from jail and prison, because it’s either that or executing the children and billing the parents for the trouble. Your viperous logic would be a wonder if it weren’t so common (viz., Marjory Stoneman Douglas commission).
this Pierre character is living in la-la land…
Liberal BS as always…
Let’s blame everyone except the individual responsible!
So when an individual gets a slap on the wrist…essentially.. and then comes back embolden and commits an unspeakable crime… will you write an article about how wrong you were?
Or will you blame something or someone else for their failures?
And while I am at it… what about the slap on the wrists and missed warning signs by everyone involved in the Parkland shooting?
Do you truly think any of those punishments would have stopped him? Do you really believe… had he been “punished” as you stated above… that it would have been prevented?
You are so lost…
Simple slaps on the wrist are what create students who will end up in jail. It is a fact and has been proven in this county.
While I agree with most of this article, in this day and age if one of the little darlings doesn’t learn and comes back and really shoots someone then everyone wants to know why the “red flags” were not observed.
ACCORDING to science the human brain is not finished developing until age 25 at a minimum. The last to develop is the ability for “higher reasoning/decision making”. With that should we also eliminate crimes for all those under 25, as they have not fully developed yet? Where does it stop?
Frank Clair says
Pierre, I agree with you on most of your article. The only disagreement I have is on the Second Amendment.
Michael Cocchiola says
O.k., Jeff. But why is it “liberal bs”? Where did Pierre get it wrong? Do you have any recommendations for achieving school safety without applying police action against adolescent school children? Is there a better way to sort out childish behavior from real threatening activity?
You made it through six paragraphs of common sense and then lost your mind, Pierre. Well, you abandoned it and reverted to writing about how you *feel* about issues. That’s a better showing than most of your opinion screeds, though, when all you write about is your feelings. Maybe there’s hope for you yet.
After further review and at least 4 more cases, even some locally, the Parents and the Kids who do this form of Domestic Terrorism should be held accountable.
Jim R says
Domestic Terrorism , the coming designation for anti–war protest ,dissent against the Government of any kind and foolish remarks by children. Welcome to police state America. Where were all those defenders of the second amendment when the first and fourth amendments were being decimated by the so called Patriot act and the NDAA. Guess they were AWOL.
Yeah Jim, it would probably be better to do like say San Francisco and decriminalize EVERYTHING right. Take a trip out to my former Hometown, When I lived there in the 80’s it was beautiful, and they had LAWS enforced, now, not soo much, and now it is DISGUSTING. No thanks.
Steve Canfield says
“We learn of the juveniles’ arrest, we’re even given their names in many cases”, … three sentences later: “Even if their names are never published (as they rarely ever are)…” So was the “We” meant to represent the media and not “we the people?” You receive information and keep it from your public? Like most liberals, you bend the facts to fit your narrative. As Joe Biden said ” “We believe in [our] facts, not truth.”
But look at what is happening in America’s great cities (San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, etc.) where liberal rule for years has loosened the legal consequences for bad behavior. Acceptable behavior now includes theft, assault, robbery, public exposure and defecation, public drug use, and more. Ignoring bad behavior encourages it. Do we really want to encourage adolescents to bring weapons, threaten teachers, or to shoot up their school?
I do not disagree with the premise of your article, but the knee jerk reaction of the legislature is the same type of response we see regarding constitutionally protected gun ownership. There are plenty of “reasonable regulations” regarding the possession and transfer of firearms. They just need to be enforced. New ‘common sense’ gun laws will not affect criminal’s behavior, as they by definition do not obey the law. I am pretty sure that is already illegal to shoot someone. How would more restrictions on law abiding citizens change criminals’ behavior? How does turning our right of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ on its head by enacting Red Flag Laws help our society? Is there not more potential for harm than good in these types of laws, when only the word of an aggrieved individual is all that is necessary to void the Second Amendment rights of a gun owner for months or years?
The root cause of our situation is a lack of discipline and the teaching of morals in our homes and our schools. And yes, that was previously done by teaching and applying our Christian ethics. We have lost our way and the pendulum has swung too far away from God and his (or her) teachings. A return to our roots is a must if our society is to survive intact.
I seldom agree with your positions, but I appreciate you providing a place for the discourse.
Its not often you make a GOOD point but YOU NAILED it this time.
Wow, typical liberial thinking, thats what started all this crap !! What a crock!