Last week, in a junior high school outside Baltimore, Maryland a 13-year-old boy was dared to tongue-kiss a girl. So he ran up to her grabbed her by her shirt, pulled her to his face, stuck his tongue inside her mouth and ran away. School officials were alerted by the girl and they called in the cops. The police arrested the boy and charged him as a juvenile with second-degree assault, a misdemeanor under Maryland law which makes it a crime to have unwanted physical contact with another person regardless whether it causes physical harm.
My only question is this:
HAVE WE LOST OUR MIND, PEOPLE?
While there has been much discussion about the growing concern of criminalizing adolescent behavior cops in Pikesville, Maryland have apparently not gotten the message. When dealing with adolescents the police, prosecutors and courts are given wide latitude and discretion to make sure they are not going overboard when dealing with young teens. To be sure, having some young Lothario ram his tongue unwillingly down your throat is offensive and there should be consequences. He should be disciplined by the school – since it happened on school grounds- he should be required to apologize to the victim and he should be required to undergo training and education about appropriate versus inappropriate behavior. Slate pundit Christina Cauterucci has called this approach dismissive ina recent article she wrote about the kissing bandit case. She correctly points out that actions of the boy make out the elements of the crime the same way that one kid punching another int he face would.
But sorry Ms. Cauterucci, handcuffing him and dragging him through the crowded, ineffective maze of the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center is pure overkill. We need to be able to separate young foolishness and peer-pressure bravado from criminality. News reports of this trend of making crimes out of teen conduct can be found easily: in places all over the country we have seen juveniles arrested for child pornography for sending their girlfriends naked pictures of themselves; in Virginia an 11 year old was recently arrested for drug possession for bringing a single pot leaf to school(BTW it wasn’t even weed after all though the cops tested it no less than three times just to make sure); and a South Carolina teen arrested for shooting a dinosaur(in a story he wrote)
I suspect Christina Cauterucci and any others who think this was a wise move have never had to deal with parents and a child charged with crime for what has previously passed as inappropriate but common adolescent behavior. That child is stigmatized in school and his neighborhood; shunned by kids and other parents alike; and they become the victims of rumor that blow up the initial event by repeated innuendo “I heard he also grabbed her breast” “My friend Tommy’s cousin’s neighbor saw the whole thing and he says the kid tried to get her to grab his penis too.” Trust me I am not kidding I have dealt with this time and time again in my office over the recent years. Parents have to pay for a lawyer; take their child to Juvi Court where they will be placed in the same courtroom with kids who are in gangs, use guns, and deal drugs; and still deal with the school disciplinary system which is where the case should have gone and stayed exclusively.
But in today’s world of “Zero Tolerance,” we arrest first and ask questions later. Just ask the Texan Muslim boy who was detained and handcuffed this week after bringing in a a homemade clock