Judge Wade Padgett has always made it clear that his Teenage Years 101 program, which deals with the legal troubles of youths, in part is designed to take away ignorance as an excuse for misbehavior.
In other words, if he can spread the message to every teen, when one of them shows up in court the kid can’t claim he didn’t know any better.
Not that such knowledge necessarily will stand in the way. Last year, after a rash of those stupid bathroom-wall “bomb threats” at Grovetown Middle School, Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Flanagan spoke to students at an assembly and told them the punishment they could expect for committing such an act.
Yet the exit door had barely shut behind Flanagan when a student posted another threat.
This came to mind the other day when I heard about a Greenbrier High School student who was suspended after yanking down another kid’s pants during PE class.
Yep. I know exactly what you’re thinking.
“Gee,” you’re thinking. “Considering the ‘Charlie Rape Gang’ situation this year and its sex-simulating copycats, along with heightened awareness of bullying, I’m pretty sure pulling down someone else’s pants in public is frowned upon.”
You’re probably also thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch, or about whether you need to gas up the car. And then you’re moving on to think about other stuff, because basically you’re also thinking that you’re sick of hearing about kids doing stupid things even though they should know better.
Under normal circumstances (which, by the way, no longer exist), one boy yanking down another boy’s pants during PE would either be considered:
A) a moronic prank, or
In a school environment, either is a bad idea. Is there anyone older than, say, 12, who doesn’t know that?
Sure,10 days’ suspension, five days’ in-school suspension and a year of probation for a “harmless” joke sounds excessive and harsh. But.
The friend telling me about the situation says the 17-year-old prankster is “an exemplary, Christian young man.” Yet rather than mitigate his punishment, that should mean he’s held to a higher standard of behavior. Simply put, he should know better.
Besides: Pantsing is the ideal prank for bullies. It’s designed to be “funny” by humiliating the victim. Pantsing quickly crosses the line between laughing with, and laughing at, someone.
Sure, authorities can be overzealous in punishing pranksters. Remember the 11-year-old Grovetown Middle School student charged with simple battery four years ago by overzealous city police after he yanked down the gym shorts of another boy in the locker room? That was idiotic.
The 17-year-old should be glad, then, that he wasn’t also charged with a crime and sent to the alternative school, or shunned like a flasher at a Cub Scout jamboree. In other words, in today’s climate he got off easy. And he certainly can’t say he didn’t know better.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow @twitter.com/