Tahlequah Daily Press

September 13, 2013

Don’t leave teenagers to their own devices


staff

TAHLEQUAH — Community organizations shouldn’t be used as impromptu free baby-sitting services, but that’s exactly what some lazy, irresponsible parents have been doing to the Tahlequah Main Street Association.

For the past few summers, the TMSA board has been gracious enough to provide  its summer Movies in the Park program for area families.

The lineup is ideally suited for young children, and families can even bring their own soft drinks and popcorn. It’s a perfect way to spend a pleasant Saturday evening at Norris Park, and best of all, it’s free.

This year, nine movies were on the schedule, including some Disney flicks. And while the results have been overwhelmingly positive, some “bad apples” have forced the TMSA board to rethink its policy.

It seems adults have been dropping off carloads of teenagers at the park, and then leaving them without supervision.

Other attendees have reported that some of these teens, as young as 12, are wandering up and down Muskogee Avenue, rather than staying in the park and watching the movies – which was the presumed intention of the “guardians” who left them to their own devices.

The impulse to get a few hours of peace away from rowdy teens is understandable. But these are still minors, after all, and they have no business roaming the streets of Tahlequah after dark.

TMSA doesn’t need that responsibility, and neither do nearby merchants or law enforcement officers.

Dumping your kids at a public event is the height of irresponsibility, both to the kids and to the public at-large.

Teens who run in packs without proper supervision tend to get into trouble, whether that may involve vandalism or harassment of other people. At the very least, they can be disruptive and create a nuisance for others who are trying to enjoy the movie, since many people are reluctant to scold a child who’s not in their care.

Some parents will argue that their children are mature and well-behaved, and would never get up to any mischief. Has it not occurred to those folks that their youngsters could be victimized by others whose intentions aren’t so pure? Do they not worry their children could become injured and need medical attention?

It’s not right to expect TMSA to step into the role as parent and protector, and it’s not fair to burden other families with this liability. That’s why TMSA had to be proactive and set a new policy that requires children under 18 to be supervised by an adult during Movies in the Park. The policy will apply for the last movie of the year, slated for Saturday, Sept. 21 – “Here Comes the BOOM!”

Common sense should prevail when it comes to community events, but unfortunately, there are always going to be people who don’t respect the rights of others.

Let’s hope TMSA’s new rule will both protect the city’s young people and ensure future Movies in the Park event are stress-free and enjoyable for all who attend.