Criminalizing seventh-grade pests

Schoolboy pranks may be treated as felony sex offenses, reports the Portland Oregonian.

The two boys tore down the hall of Patton Middle School after lunch, swatting the bottoms of girls as they ran — what some kids later said was a common form of greeting.

But bottom-slapping is against policy in McMinnville Public Schools. So a teacher’s aide sent the gawky seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school soon interrogated them.

After hours of interviews with students the day of the February incident, the officer read the boys their Miranda rights and hauled them off in handcuffs to juvenile jail, where they spent the next five days.

Now, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, face the prospect of 10 years in juvenile detention and a lifetime on the sex offender registry in a case that poses a fundamental question: When is horseplay a crime?

Even juvenile sex offenders who commit real offenses usually don’t pose a threat when they grow up, writes Maggie Jones in New York Times Magazine. Ninety percent will not become adult sex offenders. But they may be on sex offender registries for life.

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  1. When asked about the incident, vice principal Zane “Lefty” McFadden said, “Of course we use Zero Tolerance whenever possible. After all, it’s not like we’re paid to make tough decisions or anything.”


  2. Rob, it seems to me that this shouldn’t even count as a “tough decision” for a principal. The behavior strikes me as garden-variety foolishness that’s been dealt with in schools for ages. It’s no different from any other mild breaking of rules that needs minor punishment, IMO.

  3. Ragnarok says:

    Mix 1 gallon of power-hungry dimwits with 2 gallons of self-righteous political correctness.

    Stir well.


    These people are going to put the Onion out of business.

  4. This is the sort of outcome that’s entirely predictable when you make common sense an act of courage.

    The rules say “zero tolerance” which it’s safest to interpret as meaning zero tolerance. Ignoring the horseplay, especially after the paperwork had been started and the machinery put into to motion, would have required considerable bravery if not outright foolhardiness.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Zero tolerance = zero judgement = minimum wage.