I’ve never been a big fan of cop shows, yet this week I could’ve been a special guest star in a major storyline on a TV crime drama. Our family was, you see, victimized by one of the most prevalent and potentially dangerous kinds of offenders in today’s society: a bored, unsupervised teen.
This teen goes to school with my boys, rides the bus with them and lives right in the neighborhood. He doesn’t know my boys personally, but apparently knows their names because they hold leadership and other high-profile positions at school. And we’re told he claims he didn’t mean anything when he posed as another student online and explicitly, serially threatened our lives.
Except you can’t do that crap in this day and age and think it’ll just be ignored. It’s absolutely no laughing matter. Law enforcement officials and schools are obligated to take this stuff extremely seriously. And as a parent, I can hope and pray that it’s just a moronic teenage prank, but I have a responsibility to treat it like it could—God forbid—be the next Columbine.
I won’t go into the details of the case, except to say that upon police questioning, the teen gave a full admission, saying his actions were stupid, meaningless and truly had nothing to do with our family in particular. His parents were reportedly shocked, horrified, remorseful and embarrassed, and wanted us to be assured their son faces serious repercussions at home (law enforcement officials discouraged them from contacting us directly). And for whatever reason, the kid did not attend school this past week.
It was not a particularly fun week for us, as you can imagine. We were derailed from our regularly-scheduled programming and were instead on a fact-gathering mission. We wanted to set an example to our boys as being rational and thoughtful rather than impulsive and reactive, and we spent considerable time learning about procedures and processes so we could best protect them, and help ensure the safety and security of our family and the school community. We found out an awful lot about the Connecticut juvenile justice system along the way. We used words and phrases like “perpetrator,” “under advice of counsel,” “probable cause,” “alleged,” “in no way, nor at any time.” I am sure I now have the chops to snag a writing job on one of the CSIs.
In the end, after a great deal of due diligence and discussion – and despite pressure otherwise from the juvy detective—we decided not to provide a formal statement in this matter. Certainly there are no assurances about the teen’s future behavior with or without our cooperation, but at least now law enforcement and school officials have a red flag. Our understanding is that the detective can still decide to proceed with criminal charges and the school may be procedurally required to take disciplinary or other steps because of what the kid did, but they will have to do so without our substantiation. Essentially we did our job of putting everyone on notice, and a lot of local middle-schoolers learned that officials were indeed serious about the swift and severe consequences they promised in cyberbullying workshops presented at school: Threats will not tolerated—period! Hopefully this was a powerful, far-reaching, real-life lesson.
I guess it’s just all in a week’s work as the parents of teenagers these days. What a sad, scary time it is to try to raise decent, kind, respectful human beings.