by Dawn Hawkins
Teen sex offenders may be in for a more difficult path than they are already facing. If some lawmakers have their way, information on the sex offender will be public knowledge. Teen offenders are generally exempt from having their names released. The new proposal by Representative Kirk Pearson will place notification in the hands of parents, staff and adult students of teen sex offenders attending the school. It appears to be yet another case of misguided effort on behalf of "protecting" our children. There are several things wrong with this type of law though. If passed, this law burdens already overburdened students with more pressure.
Teenagers face enough pressure in today's world without politicians making it worse. Politicians want to make a name for themselves. There is little concern for the actual affect that a law like this will have on the teen offender and the school body as a whole. The sex offender is not the only one paying the price. It becomes a burden for the entire school body. It is a near certainty if parents know about the sex offense; they will discuss it with their teenagers. Those teenagers will then pass the word around the school. Classes become disruptive, students become defensive and worried and mass hysteria takes new root.
Key problems with passage of such law:
In the United States, it is common practice to withhold the names of juvenile offenders for any crime. This practice is in place to protect the juvenile offender's future. Kids often make rash decisions without thinking about the future. The current laws protect kids (and society) from having to pay for the rest of their lives for a youthful mistake.
In the United States, teens placed on sex offender lists for ridiculous reasons suffer enough already. For example, many students find themselves convicted of sex offenses after taking and sharing photographs with other students (such as a case against six teenagers in Pennsylvania). Each "offender" acted of his or her own free will, yet earned a place on a sex offenders list. The same thing happens when a 15-year-old boy has consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl. These are just a couple of examples of bad judgment on the part of prosecutors. One can debate whether students should engage in sexual activity, but prosecutors have no place in these examples. A law such as the one Rep. Pearson wishes to enact will only hurt these types of "sex offenders." These are not criminals. These are teenagers behaving like teenagers.
This law only strengthens the ability for law enforcement and communities to further harm the teen offenders such as listed above. It encourages abuse of an already dysfunctional system. Prosecutors are already having a field day at the expense of the American teenager. This law could make it impossible for a teen with a sex offense to get an education, even when the "crime" he/she committed should not be a crime at all.
If laws like House Bill 1208 get enacted, teens with sex offenses stand little chance of rehabilitation. Instead of encouraging the young person to get on the right track, he/she has little hope of rising above the challenge for a bright future. The entire country suffers because of it. These students will likely see little reason to change current behaviors because no incentive for them exists.
Teens are less likely to repeat their offenses than adult offenders are. A law such as HB1208 discourages rehabilitation for those who committed the offenses to begin with. That harms society as a whole because the teen sex offender will then become more likely to repeat the offense. It is important to note that juvenile offenders in the United States receive a second chance to have a clean record. At age eighteen, convictions are sealed. This gives the juvenile offender a second chance to live a normal life. Under HB1208, this would be impossible for the juvenile to accomplish.
The principal and those who supervise the student currently receive notification of the sex offense. Serious sex offenders are dangerous to society. There is no dispute about that. However, this particular law targets teens when placed on the sex offender list for outrageous reasons. Lawmakers are not considering the consequences of such a law. America can become a land of open information about sex offenders by adding more and more laws until no one can distinguish what is right and what is wrong. American teens are being legislated into the ground, literally.
Justin Fawcett was a normal American teenager. While one could argue that he practiced bad judgment when he had sexual relations with a fourteen-year-old girl, his involvement was not that unusual. The sex was consensual on both parts. The girl, in fact, seduced Justin. She then wrote about the conquest in her diary. Justin, along with several other young boys in the Detroit area, who made the same mistake, found themselves placed on a sex offenders list. Justin attempted to move on with his life after believing his name would not be placed on the list. One year after a plea agreement, he received notification of placement on the list. His peers and others ostracized him. Justin committed suicide on March 19, 2004. He was twenty years old at the time. The so-called crime happened in 2002. He felt his life was hopeless.
Did Justin deserve to die? No, and his actions did not merit a listing on the sex offenders list either.
If Justin felt that distraught because of placement on the sex offender list, it is safe to say that other teens in his position might feel the same way. This law simply makes it legal for people to harass them. The law does not discern what the teen's actual offense was. It is simply a notification that he/she has committed a sex offense. It is of utmost importance that fathers find out what constitutes a sex offense in their state. Shock is certain to set in when fathers realize just how easy it is for prosecutors to charge their sons with sex crimes. There is an urgent need for fathers to stand up to the legislators that represent them.
The real crime on these issues is to knock the teenager down and then to strip him of any dignity that may be left. Pearson believes that anti-bullying laws will regulate whether convicted students will be harassed or not. However, Pearson is not the one living the nightmare that these kids are living. The length that legislation goes to has stripped parents' rights away. It happens little by little until there is nothing left of the parenting role. Laws such as the proposed HB1208 punishes acts that should not be considered criminal and it does not allow parents the control necessary to properly raise their children.
Fathers, it is your duty as a parent to ensure that lawmakers are not further harming the children of our nation. What is covered in a gooey haze of fluff (protecting the children), is really just another way to take the parenting role away from the parent. These laws harm children rather than help them. This debate is currently happening in Olympia, Washington. These types of laws could be at your backdoor at any given moment.
It is time for fathers to claim their parenting role and push legislators back over the line. Let the lawmakers know that they are being watched on this issue.