The Outrage of Melinda Douglas
By Harry M. Covert
Time has come to pay attention to an age of accountability. Adults must seriously realize that boys and girls of 10 are categorically and truly children. No matter race, creed, color or national origin or anything else they are of tender age.
This is not a matter of merely following a pack of ravenous wolves that many public schools administrators seem to have become treating their children.
Case in point is the recent arrest of a 10-year-old boy at Alexandria’s Douglas MacArthur School.
The crime: having an obvious child’s toy plastic pistol in his backpack. He was taken into police custody, thankfully not handcuffed, finger-printed and held. School and juvenile authorities said they had trouble locating his mother. He was suspended from school and transferred to another.
It took juvenile court Judge Uley Norris Damiami to release the child. A criminal record no less for him.
This audacious case is a cause celebre. School administrators, teachers and school board members should now to either the “woodshed” or back to school.
Melinda Douglas, Alexandria’s Chief Public Defender, is “outraged” by the incident and has some stringent and pointed comments. Her office represents the child and described the matter as “totally and extremely outrageous and over-reactive.” She’s correct.
Ms. Douglas expects the prosecution to be dropped by prosecution by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. She’s insisting the boy’s school crime record be expunged. It should be.
“There is no indication (in the facts) of anything other than a toy,” Douglas said. “The way it was handled is outrageous, totally outrageous, and shows the administration is worse than teachers and the juvenile system.”
Douglas has “grave concern” about the impact on the youngster. She said it is a clear example of the “school to prison pipeline” where immature, innocent children become “ostracized by classmates. They often begin acting out being tough criminals.” The road leads to lives of crime and the state penal system.
A child is indeed a youngster and not a “kid” as society is want to describe them. In one of the more egregious actions in the city’s history present day school administrators appear to have forgotten how to treat a child.
Instead of soothing and solving the matter of guns in schools Alexandria’s education leaders may have created the awful “school to prison pipeline.”
Without debate school safety is vital especially in these days when national attention is riveted on unimaginable school deaths not seen in the nation’s history. Rightly so. But, there is no reason for common sense to get out of hand and overreaction. Police authorities know the difference between serious crimes and child’s play.
Douglas’ youngest defendant in her Alexandria career involved an eight-year-old – a child mind you – who was arrested and charged with “mooning” out of the rear window of a yellow school bus.
Gentle reader, mooning isn’t to be confused with the youthful days of submarine counting at the Alexandria waterfront. Douglas’ child-client simply bared his bottom. I hope he wasn’t warped by insensitive school and the legal eagles who may have lost the ability to laugh and get into the real world.