Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It's a mad, mad, mad world

The following two stories popped up side by side today. First:

A T-ball coach allegedly paid one of his players $25 to hurt an 8-year-old mentally disabled teammate so he wouldn't have to put the boy in the game, police said Friday. Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, is accused of offering one of his players the money to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn't want the boy to play in the game because of his disability. Police said the boy was hit in the head and in the groin with a baseball just before a game, and didn't play, police said. 'The coach was very competitive,' state police Trooper Thomas B. Broadwater said. 'He wanted to win.'
An 11-year-old girl who threw a rock to defend herself as neighborhood boys pelted her with water balloons is being prosecuted on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Maribel Cuevas says she didn't mean to hurt the 9-year-old boy — who acknowledged to officers that he started the fight in late April. He was released from the hospital after getting his head stitched up. Maribel already has spent five days in juvenile hall with one half-hour visit from her parents. She then spent 30 days under house arrest, wearing a GPS ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts and is now due back in court early next month. "They're treating her like she's a violent parole offender," said her lawyer, Richard Beshwate, Jr.
There are charges that the child is being treated so harshly because she's Hispanic and poor, but I suspect it's because of an obvious trend where we're forgetting as a community that children are children. I'm completely opposed to the school of parenting that says that children should be forgiven everything, precisely because they are children. Children need consequences and boundaries, coupled with love, guidance and understanding. However, we've lately been treating children as adults in a punitive sense, whether a mad coach trying to whack a disappointing team member, or a police force taking an 11 year old into custody for throwing a rock. Throwing the rock was a stupid idea, and the child should definitely be punished. The fact, though, is that 11 year olds are not famous for thinking through the consequences of their actions -- or even for realizing the gravity of those consequences -- and she can't possibly have had the criminal intent necessary for the treatment they're meting out to her. I know that there are heinous stories of 8 year olds or 10 year olds committing brutal murders, and those do need special treatment. But throwing a rock when a gang of boys is bombarding you with water balloons just doesn't fall into that category -- and probably wouldn't for an older offender either.