By Paul Hair
Clash Daily Contributor
American youth violence has been making the news lately. And people seemingly can’t understand why it’s happening . . . even as society punishes adults who attempt to discipline children.
The Philadelphia affiliate of CBS ran a story, “Police: 2 Women Gang Raped By Juveniles In Wilmington Park – Suspects Range In Age From 12 To 17-Years-Old,” in late August 2013. The story quoted local officials’ reactions to the crime:
“The new criminal we’re seeing, they’re bold, they’re brazen, and they have a total disregard for life,” said Maria Cabrera, city councilwoman-at-large in Wilmington. . . .
“Who told you that it was ok to mistreat women to this magnitude? And what do you need from society so that you can make better choices,” said Wilmington Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey-Walker, whose district includes the park. “There’s no easing someone’s mind when you have young people committing these types of crimes.” . . .”
At the same time, another story from August illustrates that it is becoming increasingly risky for adults to discipline children.
San Antonio Express-News reported on a teacher in Texas who had other students hit a purported bully in order to teach him how it feels to be bullied. The bully reportedly started crying after the other students hit him. The state ended up prosecuting the teacher for this.
Modern readers may praise the prosecution. And yet at one time in the not-too-distant past this story wouldn’t have even been news; it would have been recognized as a fairly standard form of discipline. (In fact, when I attended elementary school, teachers were allowed to use corporal punishment on students. In other words, they were allowed to hit children — via spanking — and make them cry.)
Most recently a story came out in late October about two parents in the Philadelphia area who were arrested for going onto a bus to confront the kids who reportedly were bullying their child. FOX 29 in Philadelphia reported that:
Howard Henderson’s grand daughter Shaniece also came home crying saying she was yelled and cursed at too. He says he’s known Christopher Gring for a long time.
“He should have done it in a mature way but I do believe as a parent he was sticking up for his kids. Anybody would stick up for their kids,” said Henderson.
Ian Quinn agrees. His daughter told him what happened.
“Maybe they went a little overboard with getting on the bus but I don’t think they should have been arrested for it,” said Quinn.
And that’s not the first time parents have been arrested for getting on a bus in an attempt to protect their children.
CNN reported in 2010 that a, “Florida father apologizes for school bus tirade, threats.” The father apparently was arrested and forced into apologizing for confronting the alleged bullies of his daughter (who reportedly has cerebral palsy) on her school bus.
There certainly seems to be room for criticism on what the teacher and the parents did (if the stories are accurate). However, in each case, the teacher and the parents seemed to be attempting to stick up for a child being bullied while also confronting unruly children.
And if we have become a society that intimidates adults into failing to teach unruly children that there are consequences for wrong behavior, why should we be surprised when they grow up to become teenagers who rape and engage in violence?
Furthermore, perhaps judgment on the teacher and parents becomes a bit more difficult when considering that in April of this year a bus driver in Western Pennsylvania got in trouble with the law after he didn’t intervene between two kids fighting. The Associated Press reported:
A western Pennsylvania school bus driver has been charged with endangering children after police say he let two students fight instead of intervening.
North Sewickley Township police charged Braden Hollis, of Baden, after viewing surveillance video of the March 4 incident in which police say Hollis can be heard telling other students to “clear the aisle and let them fight.”
But wouldn’t he have gotten in trouble if he intervened? Could he possibly have been charged with abuse or assault if he physically attempted to stop the fight?
It seems it’s somewhat easy to get in trouble with the law regardless of what one does when confronting unruly and violent children.
Ultimately, society will continue experiencing an escalation of youth violence and general unruliness as it continues making it riskier for adults to discipline children under threat of punishment and/or prosecution.
Best wishes to those who have children … and to those of us who have to decide what to do when faced with young kids who bully and older teenagers who attack.
Image: Courtesy of: http://englishisallaround.wikispaces.com/Consejos+para+padres
Paul Hair honorably served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a non-commissioned officer; he is veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has worked as a civilian in both the government and private sectors. His writings have appeared at various websites. Paul now runs The Security and Culture Intelligencer website (http://scintelligencer.blogspot.com/) and is an independent consultant for Wikistrat, a strategic analysis and forecasting network. Connect with him at the S&CI website and on Twitter at @PaulHair1.