Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Criminalizing adolescence not the answer

Treat every student like a law-breaker, and you risk losing the one thing that helps kids the most - a trusting relationship with caring adults.

Treat every student like a law-breaker, and you risk losing the one thing that helps kids the most - a trusting relationship with caring adults.

It’s a scary world out there, and thousands of teen fatalities are not to be taken lightly. Yet when tackling the thorny issue of how to protect young people, I like to temper my panic with a little logic.

I actually do think twice about school metal detectors, based on conversations with teachers in the trenches and my own experience in the New York City school system as a counselor.

Some kids brag about slipping weapons through these expensive security systems while others frequently miss class, waiting in long search lines.

I also think twice about the notion of Breathalyzer tests for every student at a dance. Many of us find that when adolescence itself is criminalized, teens equate confiding in authority figures with “being busted” instead of getting help for at-risk situations.

Treat every student like a law-breaker, and you risk losing the one thing that helps kids the most – a trusting relationship with caring adults.

On the other hand, using the Breathalyzer with some discretion makes sense. That way, you actually catch inebriated attendees who arrogantly think they won’t be spotted.

Test every student, and drinkers simply skip the event.

More productive in my mind is my high schooler’s principal who urges parents not to let their children go to after-parties.

These alcohol-fueled events are a “disaster waiting to happen,” he explains in an annual letter, spelling out the specific dangers of these unsupervised free-for-alls.

Unfortunately, some adults contribute to the danger. A research facility affiliated with the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention offers an eye-opening statistic.

According to the group, one-third of alcohol sales profits come from purchasing minors. So much for rigid ID checks. In addition, indulgent parents who think it’s safest to let kids drink at home merely add to the tragedy count.

What a message we’re giving young people – checking them all for intoxication in one scenario, handing over drinks in another.

If we really want to make sure the kids are all right, let’s skip both overreaction and collusion, opting instead for respectful limits-setting. After all, we’re the adults here, right?

Andrea Sarvady (ASarvad@gmail.com) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling and a married mother of three. Shaunti Feldhahn (scfeldhahn@yahoo.com) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two.

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Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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