What would you do? What should society do?
What if your son’s best friend had a secret childhood criminal record?
What if your son’s best friend had murdered his own father when he was eight?
Would you want to know? Would you let them stay friends?
What if you were told he had been “rehabilitated”?
Would you feel comfortable then? Would you ever feel okay about letting your children attend the same school as a murder?
That’s the situation facing a community in the US state of Arizona at the moment.
A community faced with a dilemma which raises so many questions: Do they believe in the possibility of redemption? Do they believe in second chances?
The unnamed community will soon have a 15-year-old boy joining their high school. That teenager was once a little boy who shot his father and another man dead in cold blood.
The teen has been assessed as safe to join a local school, a local community, to assimilate — but there’s no escaping the fact he is a convicted killer.
How would you feel?
When he was just eight years old, the boy shot his father and a friend of his father with a gun from the family home.
The child pleaded guilty to the murders of the two men, entering into a plea agreement that ensured diagnostic evaluations and mental health examinations when he was 12, 15, and 17 to determine whether he will pose any danger in the future.
The plea agreement also said that the boy wouldn’t be allowed to enrol in any public or private school unless evaluations determine that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or anyone else. But a judge has now ruled him fit to transition into a foster home and enrol in public school.
The wife of the second man he shot – a 38-year-old resident at his home — has expressed her disgust at the judge’s ruling.
“You don’t know what he’s capable of,” she said. “I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my family.”
Apache County attorney Michael Whiting said he, too, holds concerns.
“Based on the reports I’ve read, based on the things that have gone on since the time of the murders, I don’t think we can say, ‘Yes, he is safe. He’ll be fine in public schools. No worries whatsoever,’” Whiting said.
Watch a news report on the shooting at the time. (Post contain use after video.)
The boy was placed at a “Youth Development Institute facility” before being moved to a group home, but it’s reported that while there, he was accused of anger problems including smashing a wall clock, making death threats and leaving the treatment centre without permission.
The school that the young man will be attending isn’t in his previous hometown, and according to his lawyer his latest evaluations shows he doesn’t not pose a threat.
But his attorney Ron Wood said, “He’s not just a teenager. He’s the teenager who murdered his father, so that puts him in a special category of scrutiny,” Wood said.
But is “scrutiny” enough?
Is that meant to make local parents feel safer?
As a society, we are meant to believe in rehabilitation and redemption. We are meant to believe in second chances.
The case also raises questions as to whether a child can be born “evil” or whether situations force him to act that way.
The reasons why this child murdered his father were never made public, but The Guardian reports that the child referred to spankings in discussions with child welfare investigators.
You can’t imagine that, despite the best intentions, the punitive environment at a “Youth Development Institute facility” or a group home did much to alter the course of his future for good either.
And yet, if as a society in part we created this child aren’t we responsible for his welfare, for his future, to help him rather than continue to punish him?
But don’t you just feel in the depths of your heart, “sure just not in my turf“?
This boy deserves a second chance; of course he does. But am I alone in feeling deep down, thank God it isn’t near my kids?
I don’t know the motivations for the murder. I don’t understand the environment in which a child could grow up with such immediate access to a gun he could shoot his father dead but if I was the parent of a child in the school he was about to attend I too would be tormented.
My duty is to my children – to their safety, to their well-being.
I don’t have the answers to what should happen to this boy. Yes he deserves to assimilate into society, to get an education, to have a chance.
But I’m a little bit ashamed to say, I just wouldn’t want him doing it around my kids.
What would you do? How would you feel if a child in this situation attended your child’s school?