Policemen continue to make drug arrests at schools in some of this area's "best" neighborhoods.
At Winston Churchill High School in fashionable Potomac, three 15-year-old girls were arrested for smoking marijuana. They were suspended from school for three days - anonymously.
Big deal. Such "punishment" seldom deters juveniles from continuing to smoke pot or use drugs.
After five students were arrested at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, students milled about in protest. We obeyed the law and did not identify the arrested potheads, but we did name a student who was arrested for hindering police during the ruckus. We named him because he is 18.
I think laws that order anonymity for some offenders but not others are unfair and unproductive.
Editors and publishers who are First Amendment tigers in other matters have been pussycats in permitting themselves to be shackled by prior restraint censorship in reporting juvenile crime. They have meekly accepted (and sometimes advocated) laws that "protect" juvenile miscreants by not identifying them. As a consequence, we in the media have helped raised several generations of children in an unreal world in which there is no connection between crime and punishment. Those children become adults who still can't face responsibility.
A letter from Robert K. Payne puts it better than I can. He writes:
"In your column of Tuesday on parents' attempts to deal with peer pressure on their children, you referred to recent court actions in which parents are being made financially responsible for damage caused by their children.
"I support this in principle, but, as a father, would also like to see young people required to learn to bear the consequences of their own actions.
"I am referring specifically to the law, present in varying degrees in all our states I believe, that prohibits publication of the names of juveniles who have been involved in law breaking. Virginia's law is so strict, for example, that it seems to bar publication of the name of a youth who is charged with killing Billy Viscidi.
"This practice probably started with excellent motives - to keep the early indiscretions of our young people from branding them forever as lawbreakers, and to permit them to become straightforward, law-abiding adults without stigma.
"But as it happens in so many cases, the effect has been the opposite of what was intended.
"Instead of helping young people to lead more productive lives, we have become collective coconspirators in what amounts to a cover-up that allows parents to protect their children to perform a new and possibly more serious antisocial acts.
"Learning to accept the responsibility for their actions is surely one of the most important values we can teach our children.
"Counteracting peer pressure is a problem so complicated that it would require almost a revolution in our way of life. Nevertheless, we parents must display a little more backbone than we have for many years. We must come up with some workable rules and restrictions that we can and will enforce.
"I would not want to go back to the dark ages of ironhanded parental rule, but we must insist on better behavior by our children. This is an achievable goal, and I think our children would love us for achieving it. The things they are doing now - the alcohol, drugs, etc. - are expressions of self-contempt, and I think they want and need to be rescued."
I agree. A child old enough to dress himself already understands instructions to do or refrain from doing some specific thing. He may not know why , but he does know what mommy and daddy expect of him.
By the time a child enters junior high school, he understands not only the rules but the reason rules are necessary. He is aware that transgressors risk punishment.
We do our teen-aged addicts and hooligans no favor when we forbid newspapers to identify them. Editors, not social workers, have a constitutional right to judge whether a crime is too petty to report or too serious to report anonymously.
One who is old enough to make his own decisions about using drugs is old enough to bear the consequences. If I were an editor. I would be willing to go to jail to test the constitutionality of a law that forbids me to identify a person who has been arrested.
And with that, I leave you. I'll be on vacation for a few weeks. Be well.