Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cookie thief

Back in the pre-Cambrian era, when I was an undergraduate with a sociology minor, I was introduced to labeling theory, by a graduate teaching assistant, Dr. Jay Corzine (who went on the bigger accomplishments in the field):  tell a kid he’s a delinquent, and delinquent he will be.  Since then, I have had a better understanding of the implications of a youngster’s first few brushes with the law.

Sgt. Danny Reitan handed me this Incident Report, shaking his head, as I was on my way out the door last night.  It has been lightly edited for length and to protect the identity of those involved:

B0-091304
Is it a good idea to call the police and enmesh a 14 year old middle school student in the machinations of the criminal justice process over a seventy-five cent cookie?  To be fair, this apparently isn’t his first cookie-lifting, and he was in trouble earlier this year for boosting some clothes at a department store.  Still, what ever happened to be held after dismissal for a study hall supervised by the Driver’s Ed teacher, or cleaning blackboards dry erase boards for an hour after school?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chief:

New Middle School Math equation

Zero tolerance=zero common sense

Truth is, every 14 year old kid is hungry and 70% of his classmates are getting free lunch on a government program. He probably just needs help with the paperwork......

256

Class of '65 said...

In my 500 student rural WVa HS, there were about a dozen boys who automatically reported to noon "detention hall" every day. I always wondered if they actually were sent there, or if they just assumed they belonged.

AFAIK none of those JDs ever had trouble with the Law after HS.

Anonymous said...

I never have understood why students are suspended. Seems to me unless they are severly disrupting school or are dangerous to others, school is the place for them to be. Heck the problem students probably couldn't care less about going in the first place. I doubt that they are concerned about getting enough credits to advance to the next grade level.

Steve said...

Seventy-five cents for a cookie?!?!?!

I'm starting a bakery when I get laid off in a month or so!

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Maybe a bad media influence is to blame. Glad he didn't take my favorite cookie.

Anonymous said...

What really matters is what was recommended on the referral. It might have simply said lectured and recommend not filing this in court at all. The juvenile system is much different than the adult system. Terminology is also confusing. A referral is not necessarily a charge filed in court. I agree with you, that this should probably not move through court, but I also think the incident needs to be documented in case theft continues to be a problem which will make it better for the juvenile county attorney that has to work later cases.

Anonymous said...

I say we ignore it, until it becomes an ingrained habit, and after he's finally stolen enough times to become a felon for life, then we worry about trying to fix his behavior. It's always best to kick that can down the road for someone else to deal with, instead of giving him a short, sharp shock early on.

Anonymous said...

I think the real crime here is a school cafeteria charging $.75 for a cookie.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

i'm glad someone else feels the same way as me, I would have had a few tickets and involvement with the probation system when i was 10-14 had these attitudes been in place when i was growing up as it was detention and my father straightened me out more than seeing a judge and officer would have nothing breaks my heart more to see a 10 year old in court for assault, unless there is a pattern of it, and then we should look at the parents as they are not doing their job!

Anonymous said...

I banged a few blackboard eraser's together in my day.

This sounds like a school policy that the police get called. Thus it is a city policy. That is why the police get called.
I agree with 256, I was hungry all the time in school. Never stole anything because our lunch lady would have sliced me up and put me in the stew for the next day's meal.
Some kids deserve to go into the system. Most do not. Things like this could be handled differently if the kids parents would be cooperative. A large majority of parents nowadays don't think their kid does anything wrong. The system has to get involved at that point or no point will be made to the kid.

Steve said...

To me, it makes a difference whether he had the money to pay, or not. If he had the money, then he was just being a hoodlum. If he was hungry and didn't have it, that's another matter. However, it's difficult at best to be fair in this kind of thing, because everyone has their own point of view. If you don't have zero tolerance, or some specific policy on this kind of thing, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Anonymous said...

Then-Pull a girl's ponytail= you like her

Now=Sexual harassment. Hearing and suspension.

Then-Bring arrowhead collection for show-and-tell

Now-Weapons in school, suspension.

Then-Bully someone on playground and bigger bully (parent or principal) paddled your butt until you screamed.

Now-Teachers don't seem to notice bullies. Kid victim commits suicide.

30% dropout rate, Johnny can't read, teenage girls dressed like streetwalkers, pregnant at 13, tattoos and piercing, drug and alcohol abuse at ever earlier ages, and obesity rates through the roof.

We boomers have really done a great job worrying about our kids self-esteem and trying to be their friends instead of parenting.

Thank goodness Opie never ages so I can get away from "reality TV" and live in my own nostalgic fantasy.

256

Anonymous said...

Maybe you don't know the whole story about this situation but it does make for fun fodder. Since when is stealing acceptable? Maybe the real crime here is having a chief who has the time to write a blog and not be working the street.

Anonymous said...

This cookie problem all started with Sesame Street.

Anonymous said...

I concur that the worst thing that can be done is suspending the youth from school. That disconnects them, causes them to fall behind and if they don't have a good support network at home, leaves them more disenfranchised and open to other difficulties or invitations to cause trouble. Unless the safety of other children is an issue, keeping them in a place of structure and working WITH parents is crucial. I'm not suggesting this is easy, but it's very important.

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that the school's administration doesn't reach out to the police department unless they've exhausted other disciplinary measures or are required by law to do so. And for those of you who think it is "more ok" for a child to steal if he/she is needy...

To suggest that the school should somehow mete out different punishments based on a child's socioeconomic status is absurd. What else should they take into consideration - race and ethnicity? In this day and age, there has to be one policy for everyone or you'll find yourself slapped with a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:16 PM
Have you noticed what time the guy writes his blog?

I have to wonder like the chief if some work around the school would have more of an impact than a police referral to juvenile court. I cannot imagine they will do anything with it, and he might learn the wrong lesson from that experience if nothing happens. If the parent(s) are not on board, then none of this will matter much, and if they are, then calling the police isn't important in the first place. I hate to be negative.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to suggest that it was OK to steal a cookie in my first post. I just wondered why there was an extra charge ($.75/expensive cookie). Back in my day you bought a meal ticket and got in the back of the line. Your ticket was punched and you were entitled to whatever was served. Our cafeteria even allowed seconds if you were still hungry. Some kids had a difficult time finishing the first helping. I was a large kid and I had to do heavy chores both before and after school on the farm. I definitely went through for seconds unless it was turnips on the menu. It looks to me like this youngster is the victim of the OBESITY police. The cafeteria charges extra for things like cookies? That in my opinion is crapola and thanks to the P.C. idiots in charge we will see more of it to come.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous 1:16 PM
Have you noticed what time the guy writes his blog?"


No, 1:16 is way too thick to notice that detail, and probably most anything else.

BHS class of '65 said...

Re: Gun Nut @ 4:56 PM

Thanks for bringing this up. I failed at first to notice how strange it is that expensive cookies are sold in the lunch line at all. Seems like bad policy to me. Maybe somebody who reads this blog can enlighten all of us why LPS sells things like $0.75 cookies in lunch lines.

In my stone age High School we had unlimited seconds on everything except half-pints of milk. The first one was free, flavored or not. Extras were 3¢ for white ("plain" in today's PC talk) and 4¢ for chocolate.

Anonymous said...

OK Chief-Here's one for the group to digest. I had dinner tonight with a Vice Principal at a Middle School here in a middle/upper middle class neighborhood. She handles all the disciplinary stuff at her school and I asked her about her year and mentioned your blog. School has been in session for less than thirty days. She has already expelled one student (for multiple thefts) and has suspended 10 kids so far this year.

All I can say is WOW. I think it's a failure on the part of parents, failure of the school system, and a failure of our society in general. Do I have a solution? Nope, but neither does anyone else. A sad state of affairs.

256

Steve said...

I also did not mean to infer that stealing was "OK" if you were needy and hungry. I doubt seriously if he was actually starving. In fact, I'd guess he probably had the money and was doing it for the thrill. On the other side of the coin, when people truly are needy, I find it hard to blame them for stealing what they need to survive (assuming they have exhausted legal means). I'm quite sure, that if I couldn't come up with any other way of obtaining food legally, I'd steal it rather than starve to death.

JIM J said...

I would guess it was a cookie with nuts in it.
It Fits......................

Tom Casady said...

256-

A sad state of affairs indeed. As someone pointed out, I don't know all the cirsumstances in this case, I'm just posing the rhetorical question, is this a good idea, and lamenting the fact that there are no in-school disciplinary consequences that might be more efficient and effective than a police call, the paperwork, and a juvenile referral on such a seemingly minor matter.

Tom Casady said...

Oh, and BTW--I imagine that every Lincoln police officer who reads this post knows what the eventual outcome of this referral will be, and what lesson the youngster is likely to learn as a result.

Anonymous said...

Chief-Here's my less windy, less philosophical view.

The police should never have been called. The school and parents should handle it.

The kid will be labeled a thief for the rest of his school career, and this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Too bad for the kid. Unfortunately, kids don't understand the consequences of their actions. But there always are some.

256

Former Deputy D said...

256, It is of my opinion that you and I Think alike after having read your comments and nodding in agreement.
Here's one: I attended my 2nd grade sons parent teacher conference Tuesday night and was troubled by the amount of bullying going on in the second grade, yes the second grade. The week before the meeting my son who is smaller in size compared to most of his fellow classmates was pushed and tackled for no other reason than being smaller and on the winning team. Then as my son got up and pushed back was caught by the teacher and both students were taken to the office where they were told to "Not hit, push, shove each other, but if happens...tell a teacher and not fight back/defend." I was informed by a note sent home that evening that if my son had wanted to conceal or lose would have left me in the dark and provided little chance for me to explain the concept of when to tell a teacher and when to stand up for yourself. As it goes another incident with the same "other boy" occurred monday at school when he again tackled my son and forced his head in the dirt saying, "smell that." My son doing what he was told reported it to the teacher who told him, "I didn't see it happen so let's just forget about it." WHAT??? This was an excellent opportunity for me to explain to my son you did what you were told to do and next time you do what you feel is best for you and showed him a couple of good defensive moves. As I'm telling this to his teacher, she informed me that the second grade class is no longer able to play football, soccer and after today maybe basketball at recess due to the behavior of a couple of repeat offenders. I was shocked with the punishment of the entire class instead of the individuals that are causing the problem-as you stated, "consequences of their actions", exactly. The punishment is not solving the problem,just shifting the blame. It is at this point that I have taught my son to keep his hands up to protect his face and weight evenly distributed.

Dave said...

That's the way the cookie crumbles!

Anonymous said...

I mentioned this case to a friend who works in the lunchroom of a high school in Lincoln. She said this is common, it's a game to see what they can steal. She mentioned they will pick up a fruit cup, eat some of the things and put the cup back for someone else to take. The stories she could tell!

Sam said...

I am absolutely astonished to see the school reporting this and the failure of leadership at Lincoln Public Schools. I'm also astonished your Sgt. actually took this report. What were your actions Chief? Do you say anything to the School or your officer?

Anonymous said...

There is a saying that goes like this.
I would rather go to jail for spanking my children than to have them go to prison for not spanking them.
Maybe it would be betrter to have ticketed a 14 year old for stealing a cookie than to send him to prison for armed robbery or assault.
I would much rather have my tax money spent on being productive instead of being reactive.
In other words I would rather have my taxes spent on giving this 14 year old a ticket for stealing a cookie than paying for his housing, food, clothing and education. For the next 20 years in prison. I wish you could see this 14 year olds rap sheet.
reactive = not being proactive

Anonymous said...

Chief Casady:

I am writing this comment as the husband of one of the middle school lunch staff people who were involved with this incident. Needless to say, they feel somewhat slighted and frustrated by your comments.

Is it not the responsibility of the School Resource Officers to deal with potential criminal activity and safety concerns at these schools? No one is denying that a 75 cent cookie is itself a trivial matter, but stealing is stealing, and some of these juvenile delinquents just don't care. This particular student was a repeat offender, and has caused multiple disruptions for the school staff. The lunch staff did what they are supposed to do; they reported the incident to a school administration memeber, who alerted the officer, who made the decision to write the ticket.

The lunch staff is not allowed to say anything negative to the students, even when they are rude and disruptive in the lunch line. What they did was according to policy. At what point should we care about the tendencies and poor habits of one student? When he graduates from stealing cookies to breaking into the school on weekends to steal computers?

This is not the staffs or LPS's fault; if the parents had proper discipline and involvement in the children's upbringing, all of the policies and procedures in place at the schools wouldn't be necessary.

That being said, if you and your Sargent think it is a waste of time for the LPD officers on duty at the schools to deal with situations like this, then maybe the two of you have been in law enforcement too long...

Tom Casady said...

11:21-

Oh, I'm sure he is a real peach. And peaches don't normally fall far from the tree.

The reason I removed any information that would identify the school or the individuals is that I don't want to embarass anyone. I'm simply asking the rhetorical question: "Is there a better way of dealing with this conduct than calling the police and making a 'juvenile referral'?" Obviously, I think there is.

I am neither the prosecutor nor the judge, but I can pretty much assure you that nothing will happen to this young man as a result of this referral. In fact, it may be counterproductive--reinforcing his belief that his conduct does not result in sanctions. Had he been disciplined in the school--study hall, staying after dismissal, litter pickup, whatever--he probably would have learned a more important lesson.

This has nothing to do with "being too busy" or "a waste of time." I simply know how the juvenile justice system works, and any expectation that the referral of a 14 year old who shoplifts a cookie is going to somehow bring about a positive result is, in my experience, just wrong.

It would have been better to make him write 100 times on a Chief tablet "I will not steal."

Sam said...

I agree with the Chief. Calling the police over stealing a cookie is a waste of the police's resources. This simply should have been documented in the students file, a copy sent to the parents, and a punishment such as detention.