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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/5/10

Terror Tots

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Message frank newman

The problem in America today is that feeling "safe" is more important than doing the right thing. Seems this happens when 'what if' trumps reality. One manifestation of this trend is the application of "terroristic threat" laws towards Texas schoolchildren. Granted there should be some sanction against a fully functioning adult or group of adults, who out of some sense of malice were to telephone a bomb threat to the local airport. This isn't the type of case that Texas is trying however. In Texas the "terroristic threat" legislation has becomes a legalistic device for school bureaucrats and politicians to wash their hands of troubled or disadvantaged children.

Something like the shootings at the Columbine High School had to happen in order for A2 to pass. Now that it's here the language implies that our kids can be arrested and charged with a crime for saying something that they heard on television or a video game. You could call it tyranny but that implies intelligence. This is simple fear born of ignorance and the latent result is a heavy legal burden on these children's families. While attending the case that brought me to write this letter I saw a lot of children in that courthouse and the young man I accompanied wasn't the only one charged with making a "terroristic threat." There was a nine year old there with his daddy.

This law has been on the books since 1999. The courts are putting our children in jail for fussing at each other. Moreover, this is often done in closed session under the auspice of privacy for the minors who are caught in this rig. Secrecy is never a good thing when it comes to the justice system. How much more when it's our kids? Ask a bureaucrat and you'll hear how necessary it is in order to "protect the children's privacy."

The children who are caught in this mindless machine. For now, if it happens to be your kid then you get to pay the legal fees. If you plead guilty or no contest then the kid gets probation, community service and a juvenile criminal record. Break the probation hoops and you're in for more legal expenses and possibly real jail. There is even a buzz-phrase for this so called zero tolerance legislation: the prison pipeline.

Case in point. The young man I accompanied to court was discussing the various properties of guns with his chum (this is Texas, mind.) When an excitable bus monitor overheard him say that "I bet I could shoot you first in a quick draw," she assumed the worst and filed formal charges. This young man is now facing a third degree felony because the conversation took place on a school bus. A felony. The kid is 14 years old and did nothing other than banter with his friends. Now he's got a court appointed attorney bent on getting him to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Some would argue that it is insanity to subject a child to a militarized school system with police dogs, tasers and rubber-glove searches. Insane because the apparent objective is impossible. So called rule of law cannot make you - the responsible adult - feel warm and fuzzy and safe. Our children have to find their way in this world and it is for us as adults to protect and assist them - to a certain point; not necessarily through the Texas juvenile justice system.* There are a lot of people who do not have the time or the money to jump through legalistic hoops. To abolish this law is an easy Sunday fix for those who authored it in the first place. However this will not happen by itself because no one will wish to accept responsibility for this sloppy and fetid legislation.

I do not like politics and really want nothing to do with it. But sometimes it seems that it is necessary to jump in and say something because this could happen to anyone's kid. Perhaps you could find the time to do one thing and write your favorite dignitary to abolish this law or write some new law forbidding this type of legislation because the Bill of Rights is apparently not sufficient.

The juvenile prison / disciplinary system is very expensive for taxpayers but very lucrative for the contractors and security specialists who provide the services. This is what some politicians mean when they say they are tough on crime and creating jobs. Seems that these expenses could just as easily be put into teacher training, with more operators and less administrators and possibly the removal of most (if not all) political influence over the Texas school system. Oh, and just try to get the numbers on how many children have been charged with this "crime" since it's inception. It's a secret.

Sec. 22.07. TERRORISTIC THREAT. (a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:
(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building; room; place of assembly; place to which the public has access; place of employment or occupation; aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance; or other public place; or
(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service.
(b) An offense under Subdivision (1) or (2) of Subsection (a) is a Class B misdemeanor. An offense under Subdivision (3) of Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor. An offense under Subdivision (4) of Subsection (a) is a felony of the third degree.

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Former Army Ranger, world traveler and closet scribbler with a morbid fascination in politics and other national disasters -
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