Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

May 21, 2014

Parents should be held accountable for mischief in the park

TAHLEQUAH — While Cherokee County may have more than its fair share of bad drivers, we don’t have the market cornered on bad parents.

Bad parents don’t always beat their kids or physically abuse them in other ways. Much of the time, it’s a matter of neglect – and that doesn’t necessarily mean failure to feed a child nutritious food, or to make sure he is adequately clothed. A neglectful parent is also one who’s not paying attention to what her child is doing, where he’s hanging out, or who he’s with.

Adults with questionable parenting skills have to shoulder most of the blame for the mischief generated last summer by tweens and teens at Tahlequah Main Street Association’s Movies in the Park event. According to TMSA board members and other attendees, adults routinely dropped off their children at Norris Park, but did not stick around to supervise them. Some of the kids were fine; they were well-behaved, and watched the movies like they were supposed to. But others acted like hoodlums, and there’s no excuse for it.

These kids would gather in groups and become rude to others around them, often cursing and yelling and generally destroying the family atmosphere that’s supposed to prevail at Movies in the Park. These young thugs didn’t seem to care about the younger children who were there with their parents.

Last Saturday, Movies in the Park made its 2014 debut, and predictably, a few miscreants showed up. According to Police Chief Nate King, one boy was detained, and his parents were called. We trust he and his parents are now on a “watch list” for future reference.

King said the offending youth technically aren’t violating curfew, which is midnight to 6 a.m. However, they are violating standards of human decency. King’s officers will be patrolling during Movies in the Park, and any youngsters who are loitering and disruptive will be ushered from the park. He stressed that charges won’t be filed, but the kids will be held until their parents arrive.

King perhaps should have left the issue of potential charges on the table. While all teenagers can be obnoxious at times, a chronic offenders might need to spend some time behind bars. Kids who repeatedly flout authority at this age are kind of like those who abuse animals: If they’re not stopped early on, they’re going to escalate to something worse.

Parents, too, should be held accountable. Some adults understandably need an occasional break from their lively children, and the impulse to drop them off at a community event for a few hours is hard to resist. But if these parents haven’t taught their children how to behave in civilized society, they shouldn’t be allowed to roam in public unsupervised.

A lot of folks suspect it goes beyond the quest for a few hours of peace and quiet. Certain losers may be dumping their kids so they can hole up somewhere and get drunk or high, or in one case we’ve heard of, steal something from a neighbor while no kids are around to witness the crime.

Community policing really does work. Those who attend Movies in the Park should take notice of this sorry lot, and report them to authorities. It might not be such a bad idea for the parents and their troublemaking teens to spend some quality time together in jail.

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