Mountain View Voice

Opinion - February 22, 2013

Student's prank deserves reprimand, not jail time

by Anthony Moor

I am a Mountain View resident and parent of a Mountain View High School student who served with Chris Egerton as a drum major in the high school band this school year. I don't know Chris except as a parent who saw him lead his schoolmates in concert. But if what I've read is true, he may be inadvertently leading all of us into a witch hunt now.

As I understand it, Chris is in jeopardy of prosecution and expulsion from school for coming to campus dressed in a gas mask and fatigues. Naturally, at such a politically charged time, when questions of school safety and gun proliferation abound and nerves are raw, I can understand why such a stunt would spark calls for action and punishment.

But we can't let our collective emotions about an unimaginable tragedy, sparked by an ongoing national disgrace, trample fairness and reason. We can't expect teens to develop an adult's sensitivity and judgment just because the times are troubled. We can't remedy a longstanding collective failure to enact laws that demonstrate prudence and common sense by torpedoing the future of a kid who posed no harm. We can't sate our desire for justice about one event on the back of someone a continent removed.

From what I've read, Chris Egerton acted no differently than countless other attention-seeking high school kids since high schools opened their doors. He planned no assault. He carried no weapons. He made no threats. His crime was stupidity and poor dress.

Now, there may be evidence as yet undisclosed that establishes a darker motive, as crazy as that sounds. If so, then I have no doubt authorities will pursue it. But in the absence of such facts, we all owe it to our village (because as someone else once famously said, it takes a village to raise a child) to act as wisdom would dictate, and point this kid back on the road to responsible adulthood, not toss him aside based on a youthful indiscretion.

Chris deserves a good talking to. He deserves the chance to learn about how what he did could be dangerously misconstrued in the context of events and the national debate. He deserves to know he could have died at the hand of nervous police. He deserves to have rational adults handle this incident as we all know it should be handled, not as an object lesson in crime and punishment. And he deserves the opportunity to apologize.

We parents are scared. Rightly so. But we are doing all sorts of irrational things instead of what we should be doing. We're telling toddlers they can't put their thumb and finger in the shape of a gun, or ape a cowboy felled by an Indian's arrow. Moms can't put plastic knives in their kids' school lunches to spread peanut butter. Middle schoolers are walking through metal detectors and now armed guards are patrolling high school hallways.

Let's not go overboard again. Let's recognize where our sense of injury at an incident like this really comes from, and craft a response that attacks the problem, not Chris.

Anthony Moor is the parent of a Mountain View High School student.

Comments

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

Well said! A couple of trite but true things come to mind: "you can't judge a book by its cover" and "no harm, no foul". I went to high school with a young man who always wore camo and an odd sort of utility belt. He went on to serve for many years with the Marines. I hope Chris gets the chance to make amends, and get on with the business of learning. This appears to be a misstep on the path of learning and growing. Who can say they have not made a bad choice along the way?


Posted by Parent Too, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 24, 2013 at 8:03 am

Is there a law prohibiting anyone from wearing fatigues or a gas mask? I see plenty of persons wearing fatigues downtown. We assume they are servicemen and women. I see many service men and women in fatigues dropping their kids off at our elementary schools. Do we call the police on them? So it must be the gas mask, separate from the fatigues. So is there a law outlawing the wearing of gas masks? Was there a violation of the school dress code? If so that would be the closest thing to a violation here. But does that deserve jail time or a conviction?

Clearly the kid has no sense of appropriateness. But is there a law against that? I'm concerned more about the mental status of his parents and their lack of supervision of their student.


Posted by parent, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

In these days of regular mass murder incidents on school campuses around the country, incidents like this are terrorism, not pranks. If this young man cannot appreciate the difference, some prison time will teach him. (Portion removed.)


Posted by MVHS parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:01 am

The person who made this comment obviously has no clue as to what actually happened, generally advisable to know what you are talking about before opening one's mouth:


In these days of regular mass murder incidents on school campuses around the country, incidents like this are terrorism, not pranks. If this young man cannot appreciate the difference, some prison time will teach him. (Portion removed.)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I agree that the comment about prison time teaching a lesson is inappropriate and naive. I wonder if the commentor who said it can honestly and truthfully say he/she has never had a lapse of judgement, made a joke that offended people or been insensitive. I agree with Anthony Moor, that "we can't let our collective emotions about an unimaginable tragedy, sparked by an ongoing national disgrace, trample fairness and reason." It is better to teach young people to learn from their mistakes than block their paths to successful futures where they can become contributors to society.


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