Our le­gal sys­tem is in­creas­ingly sense­less

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Re­becca J. Demm­ler

Time changes our think­ing as to what is ac­cept­able and what is not.

As a stu­dent very many years ago, I re­call a teacher who would dig her bony fin­gers into shoul­ders un­til stu­dents cried. Another, in anger, would rou­tinely pick stu­dents up by the ear be­fore giv­ing a whack on the back- side. It was not un­usual to be made to sit in a cor­ner (or stand in the trash­can, or be sent into the closet). Strik­ing across the hand with a ruler and spank­ing were com­mon. At that time, stu­dents en­dured the pun­ish­ment since any com­plaint to the par­ent would re­sult in more dis­tress.

I could go on, but I’m guess­ing you can re­call a few teach­ers from your past who freely used ridicule and de­mean­ing and hurt­ful tech­niques of pun­ish­ment. As years have passed, complaints that be­gan to come from par­ents were han­dled dis­cretely. In- creas­ingly over time, a more pos­i­tive class­room at­mos­phere for stu­dents has been re­al­ized.

Re­cently, a sub­sti­tute teacher in­tended to throw his shoe against the wall (a tech­nique he learned in the past from an older in­struc­tor) in an at­tempt to get at­ten­tion and re­gain or­der in a class­room. Un­for­tu­nately, it hit a stu­dent. In an or­di­nary course of events, he would have re­al­ized not to do this again and life would have gone on. But as pre­pos­ter­ous as this seems to me, this spur of the mo­ment mis­judg­ment by a 20-year-old (in­ex­pe­ri­enced) sub­sti­tute set off a chain of le­gal ac­tions that will haunt him for years to come.

Let me state here that I do not know this young man. My in­ter­est comes from a sense that the re­sult­ing charges against him ap­pear ex­treme. The state can pros­e­cute him at any time dur­ing the next three years. A sec­ond-de­gree as­sault will re­main in the crim­i­nal record as an in­ac­tive case for three years. This is a mis­de­meanor that could be pun­ish­able by up to 10 years in prison. He can­not be em­ployed, or vol­un­teer, for any venue in­volv­ing mi­nors. He can­not be on any prop­erty owned or con­trolled by the Ce­cil County Pub­lic School sys­tem.

Should he have thrown his shoe? No.

Does the pun­ish­ment re­motely fit this blun­der? Of course not!

Do other teach­ers act in var­i­ous care­less ways? Very likely.

But I must ask: Where is the logic?

On what might seem a sep­a­rate note is the re­cent ac­quit­tal of Kevin Cooper, who was ac­cused of the hor­rific dou­ble homi­cide of a lo­cal cou­ple. The out­come for him was ac­quit­tal. I men­tion this to call at­ten­tion to the con­trast. The mur­der sus­pect was re­leased free-and-clear so that he could al­legedly en­gage in may­hem within a month of his re­lease — this time armed rob­bery.

On the other hand, a young per­son at­tempt­ing to con­trib­ute to his com­mu­nity had the prover­bial ‘book’ thrown at him.

Again, where is the logic? In my opin­ion, our le­gal sys­tem is los­ing its sense and sen­si­bil­ity.

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