Given the history of our world, people change socially, politically, environmentally, etc. from generation to generation. When changes occur, laws must be changed to address the new attitude, values, behaviors, etc. of communities. With the increase of violence, drop-out rates, crimes etc. among the young on our islands (and in the U.S.) and the differences in cultural values and behavior among three generations of people, there is a need to enact laws that will allow the “Village to raise a child.” While the change suggested will definitely have some opposition, answer these questions, objectively and critically rather than emotionally, related to the suggested change: 1) will it help to protect our communities and families more; 2) will it help to engage more people in the raising of “Village” children; and 3) will help it more parent(s) and children to become more responsible?
Our legislature should pass legislation that will allow children from age 13 to 17 to be publicly identified when they commit a crime of a dangerous nature, commit an assault upon a person or animal, steal items, deface property, are caught with a knife or gun, etc. This may be especially important to identify the “youth” who fired shots at a funeral in Kingshill, St. Croix on 8/28/09. Legislation should also require or allow the parent(s) and parole officer to be identified so that the “Village” can notify them, anonymously or identifiably, when they observe the child engaging in another action that is detrimental to the community and the individual. If such legislation is passed, neighbors and friends will now know how a child has acted inappropriately and be able to participate in helping the parent(s) to raise that child more appropriately. If they see the identified child engaging in physical or violence against animals, fighting, engaged with other children who have “negative” behavior (gangs), stealing, etc. they can now participate in notifying the parent(s) and a probation officer of that behavior. In previous generations without such legislation, neighbors, friends, etc. often would chastise a child when observing him/her doing something wrong; they would also contact the parent(s). In today’s society, that does not happen because of the “social distance” we are having between neighbors and children, because of the number of single parents who are not experienced enough to know what to tell the child and the fact that children are less social because of cell phone use and the time spent on the internet. By notifying the young parent(s), the “Village” can also help them to mature better.
If a child has a three year period of time, after committing an inappropriate act, in which he/she has not acted inappropriately, a public notice should be mandatory that the child should not to be considered a problem. Such a notice, while not influential for every child, may encourage many children to act appropriately and most parent(s) to engage them in discussions about appropriate behavior so that their public reputation will become positive. Their “good” friends may also now have a reason to encourage them to not act negatively because their own parents may object to them associating with questionable kids. With the “Village’s” – and the child and his/her parent(s)– understanding that we all make mistakes and that many learn from their mistake, the “Village” and child can accept a negative behavior as not necessarily being indicative of lifelong behavior. The “Village” also can now more easily identify potential criminals by those who continue to act inappropriately despite counseling, family instruction and public embarrassment. Given the high drop-out rate, when an identified child drops out of school, the community now has a reason to be more attentive to his/her behavior as the probability of committing more crimes is significantly increased among high school drop-outs. A notice of negative youthful behavior will also help the “Village” to protect their property and their children, especially a young daughter, if a child has acted negatively and psychological studies/data indicate that he/she will probably be engaged in acts of domestic violence, elderly abuse, murder, etc.
While the preceding suggestion and opinion has some validity, it is vitally important for the community to begin thinking “outside of the box or bun” and arrive at solutions to help address the changing physical and social environment that impacts negatively upon the “Village.”