Sunday, December 21, 2008

Criminalizing childhood

In this morning's Houston Chronicle, state and metro columnist Rick Casey questioned our lawmakers' priorities in defining crimes. Four middle-school students at a suburban Houston school who wrote on the wall of the girls' restroom have been charged with felonies.

Per our sage lawmakers in Austin, taking a pen and writing on a bathroom wall is a worse offense than hazing, possessing two ounces of marijuana, stealing $1499, engaging in prostitution, carrying a prohibited weapon, making a terroristic threat, assaulting a family member, or a second drunk driving offense.

Teenagers do stupid things. I did some things during my teenage years that were incredibly stupid and I'm sure y'all did, too. But just because something is stupid doesn't mean it should be a crime -- and it certainly doesn't mean that a teenager should have to carry the stigma of a conviction for the rest of his or her life.

Somewhere along the way we, as a society, have lost our common sense. In days past if you got into a fight at school, got into an argument with a teacher or administrator or wrote on a wall or door you were punished by the school (and then by your parents). Nowadays you're likely to find yourself in court facing a criminal charge - with your parents footing the bill for hiring an attorney.

Are we, as Mr. Casey ruminated, criminalizing childhood?

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