Not sure about the legal system for troubled teens
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 17:51:22 -0800 (PST)
My personal opinion based on my experiences in my geographic area is that
the police and court systems are not designed to, nor do they, heal anybody.
In my work with troubled teens and my own past troubled teen experiences,
the legal system was and is a huge failure in solving teen angst. It may be
better in other places.  But again, in my area, with the current budget
problems, they are cutting EVERY ONE of the few youth programs that exist.
I myself would not put any kid into that system unless it was obvious that
the child was going to seriously hurt somebody else. A wild and unruly
teenager is not going to find much in my local judicial system other than
close encounters with more serious criminals. Jail, even the juvenile ones,
tend to be training programs for criminals rather than any place to offer
redemption. It was true in the 70's when I was in that situation and from
everything I hear from some of the kids I work with, it has not changed.  

Many people are afraid of teenagers and I have seen folks react to stuff
which is simply goofing around by teenagers but because people were afraid,
they cast it in the worse of lights.  I had a parent come to me because
there were some teenage boys hanging out in the parking lot and they were
"concerned" that something bad was happening. The kids were playing hacky
sac and hanging out, using the parking lot to be free from the overly
scrutinizing and critical eye of parents. Sure, they said the "F" word as
they missed a kick, but hey, they are just kids. Boys are often more
physical and energetic than some people are comfortable with but this does
not make them bad. Skateboarding is a popular conflict in my area, and kids
challenge authority sometimes. But trying to make them into criminals for
this, while popular with some folks, is an over reaction. Sometimes parents
of teen boys get overloaded with over reactions to their kids, and so, like
the kid who cried wolf too many times, they might under react in some
situations.  Its not that they think their kid is not a problem...its the
level of the problem they disagree about.  

Now, a report of...setting fires can sound like arson. So I had some kids
the other day make themselves a fire in a vacant lot, sort of a campfire
situation. Were they setting fires and being dangerous?  If you were afraid
of teenagers and saw it, this might be how you view it. Even when people are
present in the situation it is possible to misunderstand what the actual
reality is. This is where a good family counselor can help everybody
involved, because not only can they shine a light on the actual actions,
they can also shine a light on attitudes and reactions which cause
misunderstanding of events to happen.  

I once cut my finger while cooking a meal. A bit later a neighbor who was a
nurse came rushing into the commonhouse to render assistance and take me to
the hospital.  She was told that there was blood everywhere and that I had
passed out.  There was some blood, and I did sit down because as a guitarist
injuries to my hands are a bit traumatic.  In the telling it had escalated.
And that was from people who LIKED me.  Imagine how things can escalate from
people who don't like you, or are afraid of you.  There is an old saying:
You can spill some water on a friend and they will laugh, but if you spill a
bit of water on someone that doesn't like you it becomes a crisis. 

Rob Sandelin
Middle and High school teacher
Sharingwood Community
Snohomish County, WA 

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