Arresting children solves no problems


An 11-year-old child draws a violent picture of stick figures shooting each other, and the police haul him away in handcuffs. You may think such a blatantly wrongful arrest could not happen in the United States, but the sad truth is this very scenario did occur in Arvada, Colorado. The boy in question was following his therapist's instructions to draw pictures in situations where he felt angry or upset instead of disrupting the class when his teacher saw the drawing and sent him to the principal's office. Later that night, once the boy was home, the police arrived and arrested him. The school is pressing charges, and the boy's parents and therapist are both understandably upset. Both the school and the police officers involved greatly overreacted. There is no reason to punish an 11-year-old child for a drawing, especially not when the child was only trying to follow his therapist's advice.

This whole scenario reflects a disturbing trend in recent times — the crackdown on violence in schools has lead to a significant number of harmless youngsters being severely punished, and sometimes jailed, for what amounts to nothing more than being a kid. Have the adults in charge forgotten that, when they were young, they probably did the same kinds of things and yet, they grew into arguably well-adjusted members of society. Who didn't play cops and robbers as a child, complete with the obligatory finger guns?

The insistence on treating every case of childhood pseudo-violence as a legitimate threat to the safety of those around the child is detrimental. It does nothing except create a world where a kid can't be a kid for fear that he or she will face unduly harsh consequences. Consider especially the negative effects this arrest might have in this particular case. The boy's drawing was only his attempt to calm himself down and not disturb the classroom environment — he was being a rather responsible 11-year-old. In exchange for what amounts to thoughtfulness, this poor boy was taken to jail. The school claims it is doing what is best for the boy by pressing charges, but they're really doing the exact opposite. They should leave decisions regarding the child's well being to his therapist because apparently the school's administration is inept when it comes to this.

What authority figures dealing with young children need to remember is that kids are kids — they are imaginative and fascinated by the world around them. Young boys tend to have a predilection for guns and explosions but, for the most part, it is nothing more than a harmless infatuation.


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