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14 names you'd like to know ....

You want to know the names of the 14 students involved in the May 1-2 vandalism and homophobic graffiti at Arlington High. So do I.

restorative justice

In the weeks since the news broke of a senior prank gone wrong, I have tried to find out -- with some success.

I have learned a list of names of those alleged to have taken part. Most of that is based on hearsay.

I know only one of the names for certain. That's because the boy's mother talked to me.

I am choosing to publish none of the names I have learned.

Why?

The one name I know is a juvenile (under 18). Unless circumstances warrant, I do not publish the names of juveniles. No law compels me one way or another; just my journalistic judgment.

While what is reported to have taken places caused community pain and significant physical damage, in my view the seriousness of the offenses do not call for naming names. 

Feel free to disagree at the comment link below.

Offered restorative justice

Some of the suspects are said to be older than 18. If true, I would publish the names only if police file formal charges in those cases. This is one guide I follow for reporting all police matters.

The statement issued by the town May 21, says that all 14 have been offered restorative justice. Those who do not accept this offer "will have their case prosecuted in court," the statement says.

Should any take that route and face police charges, I would publish those names.

For a publisher, the attempt to be fair is a balancing act -- just as it is for town leaders who are trying to follow the right course of action.

In their view, providing young adults a chance to avoid criminal charges while entering into a process of facing the pain wrought upon the community balances possible ways for youths to deal with their stupidity or thoughlessness. The way town leaders have chosen to offer is worth taking. I agree with them.

What the approach means

If what restorative justice is remains unclear, read carefully the statement from town officials. Is it still murky for you? Read much more here >>

In seeking to learn the names of suspects, I began by asking officials. I received no comment or no response, in all cases. I would expect no comment. No response shows a lack of responsibility toward public information. "No comment" is better. Some comment is better still.

I have also asked for an estimate of the physical damage from an official. No response on that one, too, which surprised me. This issue is a matter of an estimated cost, a fact the public should know.

Other information came from adult and student sources, whom I decline to name as a matter of standard journalistic practice. If a source agrees to be named, that is another issue. None did here.

The information I learned included speculation about whether some of the 14 are members of a group called "The Arlington Biker Gang" (using bicycles, not motorcycles). One who contacted me claimed a suspect has a relative who is a town employee and that the relative is protecting the youth.

I do not know enough to confirm either claim. If someone reading this has direct information that might be helpful in confirming either of these issues, then get in touch with me directly. Note: I wrote "direct information," not hearsay.

Two kinds of damage

Let's go beyond speculation to a concrete issue, the physical damage done to the school. A source says that what began as a senior prank -- moving around cafeteria tables -- escalated into much worse school damage, as recounted in the town's statement. How many were involved with that? All 14? A few of them? A majority? All had broken into the school about midnight when the mayhem occurred. All were implicated.

But the focus on syrup, plastic wrap and ruined fire extinguishers and a trophy case should not lead us to ignore the key matter -- the harm from the homophobic slurs and a swastika. What damage did that cause? They are stabs of hate at the heart of our community, no matter the motive, not matter whether done in jest or with conscious intent.

The four words and one symbol were spray-painted, but by how many? Possibly by one or two students, judgment possibly clouded by drink or drugs. All 14 did not do these deeds. However many used them, they reflect ignorance about history. Together, they recall the Nazi solution to what is merely part of humanity -- being different.

Do the few directly involved hate homosexuals or Jews? Perhaps they do, perhaps not. Perhaps they don't yet know.

Whatever their deep-seated beliefs, those who expressed themselves this way can find out what it feels like to be targeted by hate from those in the community who have endured this pain. Directly -- face to face -- through restorative justice:

Hey, dude; look me in the eye and tell me what you really feel about gays, about Jews.

After you do that, go home and educate your parents.


May 11, 2018: AHS SENIORS STEP UP: Fund-raiser tops goal

May 7, 2018: 14 AHS vandalism suspects draw scrutiny; police release hate data
May 5, 2018: SLURS: Police report reveals some facts, a source some others 
May 2, 2018: How public, principal responded after homophobic graffiti found at AHS 

This viewpoint was published Wednesday, May 23, 2018. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comment below. You must use your full name.

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

Comments

Bob Sprague on Saturday, 26 May 2018 11:09
What, no public opinions?

I have received three emails in response to this opinion piece, each expressing a viewpoint just to me. That's fine; glad to know. But sharp or dull, the opinions I seek are for us all to read. Anyone?

I have received three emails in response to this opinion piece, each expressing a viewpoint just to me. That's fine; glad to know. But sharp or dull, the opinions I seek are for us all to read. Anyone?
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