Students who violate the law should be prosecuted
Hernando TodayThe issue: School district waives criminal prosecution for at least 18 students who burglarized and vandalized Hernando High School.
Published: May 31, 2009
Published: May 31, 2009
Our opinion: Superintendent sends wrong message, sets bad precedent.
If some idiot breaks into one of our public schools, spray paints vulgar graffiti all over the buildings or puts grease all over the door handles and, thankfully, gets caught by police, what happens?
The perpetrator is arrested. Right?
Well, not in the case of at least 18 students who burglarized and vandalized Hernando High School last Memorial Day weekend.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander signed a waiver of prosecution, taking the matter into his own hands and thereby shielding the students from law enforcement, prosecution and the accountability of the criminal justice system.
He called the planned criminal acts carried out by the underclassmen and graduating seniors simply a "mistake."
That would be the mother of all understatements.
You can bet that anyone else who carried out such illegal deeds would have been arrested, fingerprinted, booked into the Hernando County Jail and subjected to the rigors of the court system. The perpetrators likely would have been sentenced to probation, assessed heavy fines, made to pay restitution and issued a large number of community service hours.
That's how misguided young men and women learn that committing criminal acts have serious consequences in life.
Now we find out that 14 of those students involved - the group of graduating seniors who apparently perpetrated lesser vandalism than the group of four underclassmen who spray painted - will be allowed to walk across the stage at graduation.
That's classy. No doubt to the hoots and hollers of his or her classmates and the admiring audience.
If the parents aren't embarrassed by such a flaunting display, they should be. They should be ashamed at such a moment, certainly not proud.
At least the graduating seniors won't be getting their diplomas until they complete 40 hours of community service at the schools.
Still, Alexander has sent the wrong message and set a horrible precedent.
When the superintendent waived criminal prosecution, he told those responsible for the break-in and vandalism, as well as the other 17,000 students in Hernando County public schools, that it's just not that big of a deal when students burglarize and vandalize public property.
After all, it was just a prank.
An expensive and shocking one to be sure.
Not something to laugh about or take pride in, as most pranks are designed to elicit. Like last year when two Hernando High School seniors admitted to an elaborate prank that resulted in 400 or so letters being sent to parents stating sex education classes would no longer be offered at the school and they should "take on the responsibility" of teaching safe sex to their children. A wrapped condom was enclosed in each letter.
Now that was kind of funny, some might even say, clever. Last weekend's senior prank could only be described as dumb.
Alexander's punishment is a slap on the wrist. What lesson do you think these students learned?
Let's hope next year's senior "prank" - because they know they can get away with it - isn't worse or more costly to the taxpayers.