DEAR ABBY: I am a retired woodshop teacher. I taught in the public school system for 27 years. During that time, I had to moonlight at other jobs as I had some major medical problems in my family. I moonlighted for 16 years in law enforcement. I worked as a policeman in three different agencies - city police, sheriff's department and university police.
While I was growing up, my parents were the final authority. In fact, I would rather have faced the police than my dad. If I got into any kind of trouble, his thinking was, "They didn't just decide to pick on my son for no reason. He must have done something to get their attention." That was enough to cause my dad concern about my conduct.This type of home authority has changed drastically in our society. If a child gets into trouble, his parents usually become allies with him against all forms of authority - police, schools, courts, etc. By not publishing the names of juveniles, a record is allowed to build and attitudes to develop. The family and young lawbreaker become anonymous, and the crimes become more frequent and violent. When the child gets old enough to be charged as an adult, everybody wonders, "When did he start going wrong?" The truth is, he had been going wrong for a long time, but he was sheltered.
It started when he stole the first piece of candy from the grocery store. He was just a 7-year-old kid, so it was "no big deal." It started again when he stole another kid's bike - then it was probably just a "mistake." It started when he was underage and drunk - "Oh, that was just a part of growing up." It started when he forced a neighbor girl into a situation she didn't really want, and it was probably just a "misunderstanding."
While I was a teacher, I had the opportunity to talk to students who told me that they could do almost anything except murder until they were 18, and it wouldn't matter because at 18 they would get a clean slate. I tried to explain to them that you can't change an attitude that has developed during your first 18 years.
I have always felt that if the parents or the single parent who is raising the child will not accept responsibility for their child's acts or actions, they should be forced by law to take responsibility.
As you said, Abby, you cannot legally publish the names of juveniles in the newspapers, but you could certainly publish the names of the parents. Example: "The young son of Mr. and Mrs. John Doe was found guilty of beating up an 80-year-old woman and robbing her of $3."
I say, if you cannot charge the juvenile - charge the parent! This may very well help to bring child crime down. However, it may increase what may now be termed as "child abuse." There may very well be a few warm butts around. And the 80-year-old lady may have a little less to worry about in the future.
Thanks, Abby, for letting me have my say. - DON BANKS, FORT COLLINS, COLO.
DEAR DON: You have said what I have been thinking for years - and I couldn't have said it as well. Thanks for writing.
By the way, I've been informed by the attorney general's office in Washington, D.C., that laws governing the publication of names of juvenile offenders vary from state to state.
People are eating them up! For Abby's favorite recipes, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)