Editorial: Recognizing privileges of our youth

Friday, June 18, 2010

The boy who desecrated a monument for those who gave their lives during military service for our country is apparently willing to apologize for throwing the plaque in Rock Creek about three months ago.

However, he does not want to be named publicly. Perhaps that reflects shame. If so, it may also prove to have been a learning experience. That is one of the purposes of the juvenile court system in this state.

Letters to the editor are to be signed. The boy's letter is elsewhere on this page. The name with it is of Marshall County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Bowden who put the boy on probation for desecrating the monument. A public apology is one of the conditions of the boy's probation and the judge has fulfilled this newspaper's need for a name with the letter.

The boy has been judged as a delinquent. If this newspaper knew his name, it could be published. The court knows the name, but can't divulge the name because of state law.

This situation came to our attention Monday when a court officer presented the handwritten letter to the Marshall County Tribune's news department asking if it would be printed. You've read the answer. Here's the chain of events.

The plaque commemorates the Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Campaigns saying that the public's "enjoyment of this park and all your other freedoms have been secured by the sacrifice of, among others, from Marshall County, Todd Nunes, 1974-2004. David Hierholzer, 1979-2006, and Marc Golczynski, 1977-2007." Those men died in battle.

About two months ago, Lewisburg Public Works Construction Supervisor Bill Curtis bolted the plaque to the pedestal, explaining that it had been put on wet cement that didn't hold it down. That's why the boy could move the plaque.

Now, he's been to Juvenile Court. It is open to the public. If names, faces and consequences are seen, heard and understood, they can be published. It's legal. Officials in the criminal justice system aren't allowed to release juvenile records. Publishing the names of juvenile offenders is not illegal. If two boys kill a man, flee, get caught and are taken to court, it's news. If a 16-year-old boy stabs a 21-year-old man for dancing with his girlfriend, it's news. Publishing the names is a judgment call.

After the plaque-tossing juvenile delinquent was caught, other stories were pursued.

There are protections afforded juveniles by acts of the state Legislature. One protection is enhanced punishment for some crimes against juveniles. Another is recognition that minors haven't had much life experience. Since they're young, allowances are made.

The boy's act of desecration is serious. If we had his name, we might publish it. In small towns like Lewisburg, there's probably a feeling that "everybody knows anyway" and he feels exposed.

Still, the purpose of the Juvenile Court is rehabilitation of the juvenile. Punishment is part of that. Making delinquents aware of consequences is one avenue toward punishment. The court is trying to be creative in helping the child.

In different cases, juvenile defendants have apologized to victims. In this case, the victims are practically everybody in the county, if not beyond the line.

Someone suggested the boy should speak to a veterans group. The judge said that hadn't been suggested - Not yet in open court.

Jim Ward, general manager, and Clint Confehr, senior staff writer.