Student's prank deserves reprimand, not jail time
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.