Owatonna, MN Correspondent- One of the realities of modern life is children grow up much faster than they used to, have access to all that is good and bad in the world via electronic media, and also seem to have a lower level of morality and modesty. As a result, incidents like the student exposing himself for a yearbook picture occur more often than in generations past.
This leads to seemingly harmless pranks having dire and serious consequences for children who aren’t accustomed to being held responsible for their actions. Criminal laws are written to punish crimes of old eras, whereas people, especially children, are finding new ways to misbehave thanks to instant communication and new technology such as cell phones. Fifty years ago, no one would have thought it possible to break the law by sending indecent “selfies” to others via the telephone. Now, that behavior seems epidemic and we don’t seem to have appropriate laws to address these crimes.
High school pranks are commonly misdemeanors that usually cause little or no permanent damage other than to reputations or wallets. But serious pranks that cause injury or death should be treated the same as if those crimes were committed by adults, with the goal of enforcing the law more focused on rehabilitating instead of punishing the offender. We need to remember that teens’ brains aren’t fully developed, even in high school, so we have to treat those under age 18 differently that we treat adults in the penal system.
Restitution seems the most logical punishment in cases of property damage or damage to reputation. Most people understand the consequences of a hit to their wallet much better than other penalties. The next best punishment may be community service in an area directly related to the offense. In the case of the athlete who exposed himself during the team yearbook photo, he should have been sentenced to pay for the cost of correcting each yearbook and put in a certain number of “volunteer” hours at some sort of facility for sexually exploited children. Above all, society needs a major refocusing on personal accountability and consequences of actions. Better to prevent a bad prank from happening rather than cleaning up the mess afterward.
Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent- The average High School prankster may receive punishment in the form of detentions or other school-enforced disciplinary actions. But when a prankster breaks the law, what measures are most appropriate then? The recent case involving a teen living in Arizona places this question into full focus. For exposing himself in a yearbook photo, he was charged with 69 counts of indecent exposure and a class 4 felony. On one hand, it’s easy to conclude that law enforcers are merely applying the rules of law. The fact that the teen was 18 years old at the time of the incident also makes such a serious punishment seem more appropriate since he, by law, can be treated as an adult. But there are a few considerations worth taking before drawing a conclusion as to what’s appropriate punishment. For instance, how did this picture get published in the yearbook? Can it not be argued that it was negligence on the part of the school’s editorial team? It was their job to ensure the content published was appropriate for publication. Also, can this teen’s act of indecent exposure and the resulting publication of the photo be seen in the same light as possession of narcotics or identity theft? Such class 4 felonies in Arizona result in prison sentences that last up to three years.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent- High school pranks go too far when they cross the line between decency and lurid indecency, or in a lot of cases from funny, sneaky and embarrassing to dangerous and life threatening, like daring someone to dive headfirst into an almost drained school gym pool, and the person taking the dare winds up paralyzed or worse. Pranks also go too far when they are to the detriment of an entire group or organization, when they destroy established standards, and when serious laws are broken.
The Arizona student, Hunter Osborn, faces numerous indecent exposure charges and a felony charge for furnishing indecent material to minors for his role in a yearbook photo prank. He appears to have gotten into a bigger mess than he bargained for, the consequences of which he probably thought would never affect him , because of the silliness of the whole thing, and the boys-will-be boys, nothing will happen to me kind of attitude that prevails among younger guys ready to graduate, party and take on the establishment. Not real clear thinking, but not too many kids have it at that age, and sometimes mistakes of this nature need to be acknowledged and dealt with, yet forgiven in ways that don’t involve jail time and imprisonment.
This young man obviously wasn’t prepared to answer for the prank and thought that the yearbook would be published without any glitches, as the picture would be there, few would notice until it was too late, and the whole thing would be a joke on the school administrators, teachers and yearbook sponsors, plus there would be laughs to go around on everyone. He mistakenly took the dare under peer pressure, set himself up for the fall, and is currently feeling the negative effects of his misjudgment.
The whole thing was just another typical modern-day high school prank gone awry and it was met with knee jerk reactions that seem to come with almost every aspect of life today. Rather than using common sense and thinking through why Hunter did what he did and how he has probably already suffered from his actions, the school district, and local prosecutors want to throw the book at him. The prank has obviously been exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness, particularly when the government has taken sexually-related agendas in the direction it has with allowing men, or men that think they are women, to use women’s bathrooms, or letting members of illegal gangs that have sexually attacked and murdered others go scot- free or flee the country with no consequences.
Punishment in this case has been too harsh and is not good enforcement of the law, particularly when far more serious crimes are committed and not pursued. At best, the appropriate punishment for Hunter Osborn and others that commit similar low ranking pranks would be payment for the yearbook page to be edited and replaced, a court fine, community service, service to the school district, a summer school class on appropriate behavior choices, and a written and verbal apology. Punishment should fit the crime, or what should really be classified as a misdemeanor, and maybe some of Hunter’s encouraging football teammates should be implicated as well to serve as even more politically correct examples of what happens when young, athletic guys do silly things they’re not supposed to. Of course, most of them are probably heaving a sigh of relief that they weren’t implicated and never mind about Hunter. It will be interesting to see how much more of his life is ruined; if he’ll have to wear the electronic monitor the rest of his life, what kind of a sentence he’ll receive and whether he gets an activist judge in his case? Most level headed individuals would say, “Deserves a second chance. Case dismissed with stipulations.” “Oh and no more taking the dare bait.”
Gastonia, NC Correspondent- The topic of “harmless” school pranks is another area in which the pervasiveness of social media has bred a monster. Kids raised on the pranks of “Jackass” and fed thousands of YouTube channels devoted to “fails” and the like fall prey to that youthful game of “Can you top this?” and are forever looking for ways to not just play pranks, but to do so in ways that will draw the maximum number of views online.
Whereas in my high school years stopping up a toilet and tying down the flush handle would have been a fairly extreme prank, today’s kids will add red dye to the water, pour dish soap on the floor and prop open the door to the hallway.
School administrators have no choice but to discipline those involved. Failing to do so shows weakness, and in the tribal environment of American high schools that is tantamount to leaving the liquor cabinet unlocked and the car keys on the kitchen table.
That said, the extreme punishments handed out for some largely harmless pranks, like the football player flashing his privates in the team photo, are over the line. Destroying a kid’s high school career over one moment of bad judgment is not the solution. Part of teenage life is making really bad mistakes, being punished for them, but being able to continue your normal life afterward. This young man didn’t do any permanent harm to anyone, and he certainly didn’t show them anything they hadn’t already seen. He pulled one stupid prank and is now facing criminal charges and will likely have a hard time getting into college.
Judgment must be used, and restraint must be exercised when it comes to punishments imposed on high schoolers. A line must be drawn between honest pranks and violent acts. The kid who soaps the lunch table shouldn’t face the same fate as the one who calls in bomb threats or assaults a teacher.