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Leaders find best approach; can it be more open?

Don Mei, an Arlington resident, offers his views about dealing with the suspects in the case of Arlington High School vandalism and slurs:

On May 1-2 the high school was broken into by as many as 14 teen young men.  They destroyed property and spray-painted antigay slurs as well as swastikas outside the school. Later, we found out that the Arlington police and school district have identified suspects and have decided to offer a restorative-justice solution followed by possible charges for those who do not accept that option.  

I’ve spent a fair amount of time (to the detriment of my family) following and researching this, and I think that the solution outlined in a May 21 statement by the Arlington police, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and others represents the best compromise in this most difficult case.  

Many competing forces

The difficult thing is that there are many competing requirements for any kind of solution, and it must by its very nature be some kind of a compromise. So here are the goals in my mind:

  1. Students need to be punished -- make no mistake.  These young men need to be held accountable for their actions.  The destroyed property, broke into a building and spray-painted symbols and words on the building that could reasonably be expected to frighten certain people.  

  2. The students need to be made to confront the victims of their crime.  This is a bit more difficult since in a way, all of Arlington was victimized. But at the very least Jewish and LGBT should be given the opportunity to confront the students in a constructive way and discuss what it all means.  

  3. The students’ names should be published if they are legal adults. It is wrong that the adult-aged students have not been named. We have open records laws in this state, and even if they are not prosecuted, this information should be available.  

  4. The students should not be forced to pay for the rest of their lives for their stupid actions.  I don’t believe that these students are actually antisemitic or antigay. I believe that they are likely typical high school-aged young men who revel in pissing people off. They also know that nothing pisses people off like making antigay slurs and drawing swastikas on things.  I am not making excuses for them. This is not simply “boys being boys.” But I do believe that most, if not all of them, do not have any actual hate in their hearts. I remember what it was like to be 18 years old. I was angry. I was always right. And I was invincible. It's a dangerous combination, which I am glad to have survived.  

Work this out in the open?

How many of us did stupid things when we were in high school or college that, had things worked out poorly, could have ruined our lives?  

In reviewing the town’s statement issued on May 21, it looks like all of these requirements could be met. It is a bit vague on details. However, it is imperative that those details are worked out IN THE OPEN. For example, who will select the victims to face the offenders?

What are the criteria for selecting these people? Will a transcript of these sessions be provided? Will the offenders be required to perform hundreds of hours of community service in addition to meeting with their victims? I think they should. This needs to hurt them in a short-term way. Ruin their summer.  But don’t ruin their lives.

All these questions remain unanswered. Either way, the open issues could be addressed within the framework of this solution. There is simply more work to do.  

In summary, I think that the Arlington police and others have arrived at something close to an ideal solution to this very sticky problem. I want the adult-aged offenders named, and I’d like to see some details around the “restorative” portion of this. But, overall, this is a good start that seems to punish the offenders for their crime, but not ruin their lives in the process.


This viewpoint was published Thursday, May 31, 2018. 

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

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

Comments

Guest - Heather Bryant-McKenney on Saturday, 02 June 2018 13:18
Response

I am not sure that it is a good idea to name these boys. Given the visciousness demonstrated by certain people on the A list and in the town, I feel that these boys safety and their families may be in jeopardy. What they did was stupid, juvenile, and illegal but it seems that Chief Ryan and the school district have a pretty good response to the event. I am not sure what publicly shaming would do. Just adding my 2 cents

I am not sure that it is a good idea to name these boys. Given the visciousness demonstrated by certain people on the A list and in the town, I feel that these boys safety and their families may be in jeopardy. What they did was stupid, juvenile, and illegal but it seems that Chief Ryan and the school district have a pretty good response to the event. I am not sure what publicly shaming would do. Just adding my 2 cents
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