As a youngster (back in the Dark Ages as my daughter calls it) me and my friends took the opportunity under the cover of Halloween night darkness, to soap windows, toss toilet paper over peoples ornamental trees, smash candle-illuminated pumpkins sitting peaceably on our neighbor’s front porches and a few other such “activities” that were age old traditions in our working class, suburban neighborhood when the annual celebration of all things ghost and ghoulish came around.   For our targeted homeowners it was surely irritating to walk out their front doors and get tangled in ribbons of Scott’s Toilet Tissue or step into the aftermath of squashed orange pumpkin pulp.   Admittedly, I did my share of cleaning soaped windows at my own house.  But back then – the Dark Ages – such annoying “antics” weren’t considered crimes, they were just shit that 13 year olds did for lack of imagination to figure out how to amuse ourselves while running around the streets in dumb costumes every Halloween Eve. 

I noted a couple of decades ago that such All Hallows Eve juvenile activities began morphing from annoying shit that kids do into criminal behavior punishable by adult authorities.  This trend, presumably one thread of the personal responsibility social contract enacted in the 1980’s that has given us Arkansas today where anyone can buy a gun, carry it anywhere and at any time, with no questions asked or background checks required, has gained steam over the years to the point where genetically programmed addle-brained teenagers are adjudicated as adults in our justice system before their adult brains kick in to throw a cloak of sensibility over the hormone driven, dumb stuff that teenagers do "just for fun.” 

Today, via a Washington Post article, is the case of a young African American school kid in Virginia who is being prosecuted for allegedly stealing a 65 cent carton of milk at his school.  Okay, so there is more to the story than just this.  The young man’s parents, claiming racial discrimination, have decided to pursue justice for their son, Ryan Turk, through the court system rather than – as was recommended by the school – just having Ryan admit to his crime and moving on.  

According to the 14 year old, he had forgotten to pick up a milk carton when he collected his lunch and, realizing this, cut back into the lunch line and grabbed the 65 cent carton that was – according to him – rightfully his.  Well, one “resource officer,” presumably on the job to ensure that the Dumfries, Virginia, high school teenagers acted like adults rather than the pimply-faced, acne scarred, hormonal driven idiots they truly are, spotted this horrible infraction of all that holds American Society together and prevents the total destruction of law and order, challenged Ryan and Ryan wound up – handcuffed, by the way - in the Principal’s office. 

The Resource officer maintains that Ryan “concealed” the carton of milk (which carton, by the way, was free to Mr. Turk since he is on the Federally supported Free School Lunch Program), became “disorderly," when confronted with the “theft,” that Ryan pushed him and tried to run away while en route to the Principal’s office.   Now the article is not clear about whether the “resource officer” is an off-duty police officer, a moonlighting security guard or just some random volunteer PTA Dad.  Exactly what rules and regulations might have guided the resource officer are also not spelled out in the article but are probably spelled out in some Dumfries School Board policy since Dumfries is not located in Arkansas where, apparently, laws, rules and regulations are considered pesky impediments to Freedom (at least when it comes to guns) but a fairly typical and not unsophisticated suburb of Washington, D.C. 
The family’s “story” about how Ryan’s theft of the 65 cent carton of milk was “handled," is quite different from that of the resource officer.  They allege that Ryan was grabbed around the neck, did not conceal said 65 cent carton of milk, and when asked by the officer to return the criminal evidence, Ryan did.  The family maintains that security footage of the "crime" supports their version. 

Opting for a trial before a judge – Ryan’s “crime” is a misdemeanor – the family maintains that Ryan was discriminated against, (all the key players in this high school Shakespearian drama are African American), because their son is a Black teenager who resisted accompanying the resource officer to the Principal’s Office because he knew he had done nothing wrong.  And, as for simply admitting that he had stolen the milk and having such an incident a part of this school record, Ryan’s mother said that “My son is not going to admit to something he did not do.”   As the attorney for the Turk family, Emmett Robinson, stated:  “It’s not the players, it’s not the people who discriminate, it’s the whole system.  The system is set up now so that school resource officers get to determine the impact on a person’s life.”

So we’ll see what happens at Ryan’s trial.  But here’s my problem, admittedly one of those systemic ones that Ryan’s attorney referenced:  How in hell have we come to the point where kids – 12 year olds,  13 year olds, 17 year olds – are charged, processed and adjudicated through our adult justice system as criminals for “crimes” that in the past would have been treated as annyoing shit that teenagers just do and maybe a whck across the butt would have been sufficient punishment?  Teenagers acting dumb?  Acting stupid?  Acting like kids?  We don’t trust them to vote.  We don’t trust them to consume alcohol.  We don’t trust them to drive or buy a firearm (except in Arkansas) and yet somehow we expect them to act like mature, rational, fully formed adults when it comes to their own activities in school?  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me

Sure, I am aware of the “discipline” problems facing schools today which difficulties were not a problem back in my school days during the Dark Ages.  I acknowledge this.  But holding teenagers to adult standards of behavior, responsibility and culpability – to say nothing of a minimal level of basic intelligence - simply flies in the face of biology.  Thirteen year olds are basically incapable of acting like adults through no fault of their own.  It’s in their genes.     


Have A Wonderful Day!


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