The Sandusky Register changed its practice against printing the names of juveniles charged with delinquency and unruliness. The old practice was in effect for many decades and is currently the policy of nearly all other news sources. I have concerns about what this means to our children.
Children in our community have less ability to control their lives than do adults. They are told where to live, who to listen to and where to attend school, to name a few. Legally, there are fewer rights also, no trial by jury for example. These limitations reflect the knowledge that our children cannot be held to the same standards as adults and that rehabilitation rather than pure punishment serves us all better.
Research has shown children do not fully develop emotionally and intellectually until early adulthood. This means they can't decide appropriately nor regulate feelings and behaviors. The publishing of the child's name creates a negative perception that is more intense than we adults understand. Yet they are ill-equipped to regulate behavior and make decent decisions about how to react to others' comments or just the suspicion that everyone "knows". Publishing also reveals families who are crying out for help, only to open them to the public spectacle of the news coverage. We are now reading about family arguments (unruliness) in the police blotter. Is this necessary or helpful?
Children are learners. A child's values, attitudes and beliefs are learned from their families, their schools, the community, and from their equally inexperienced peers. These values, attitudes and beliefs guide and form all behaviors. The community must provide guidance because it's lacking in many families. Does the practice help fulfill this duty of teaching?
A recent survey revealed our community suffers from a lack of inter-action between adults and children. Most adults responded that they are afraid to deal with our children. The publication of their names puts a face with a name. Are you feeling more inclined to volunteer, hire and/or interact with "that" child, who would benefit greatly from a positive role model? Does this practice tell the public that the paper values youth? It doesn't appear so.
One of the legal and ethical requirements in juvenile court is that of confidentiality. Through laws we have determined that a child's privacy is more important than the public's right to know. This causes me to question the paper's reasons for deciding otherwise.
Laws also provide that children are entitled to expunge their record except for the worst offenses. This requires the court and all police agencies to destroy all record of offenses. Because of the paper's practice, this expunged record can now be read by anyone, anywhere, forever. Does the new policy foster an opportunity to learn from youthful mistakes and get a clean start in adult life? It can't possibly help.
Over a century ago, our society decided that our youth deserve a chance at a successful adult life even when they have made some incorrect choices. The Sandusky Register's practice doesn't reflect this longstanding and established social value. Doesn't our community already suffer from enough exclusion and isolation of our youth? How does this practice help our community resolve that? I'm waiting for the paper to be a "Crazy Old Guy" in this community, like the publisher says we need, and stop creating more isolation. I hope you'll let the paper know this practice serves no useful purpose and is detrimental on an individual and community level. We must all show that we value our youth more than this policy reflects if we want to improve our community.