Drinking, drugs, driving like lunatics, stealing road signs, trespassing and vandalizing — kids, even basically good kids, will often do some amazingly dumb things in their teenage years. Sometimes, these are not just unfortunate ideas pursued with the enthusiasm of youth, but things that are truly dangerous and, often, clearly illegal — things that get them in trouble with the police, and the court system. Their parents’ job — and to an extent their community’s — is to get them through these difficult years so that they enter young adulthood thriving, growing, well-educated and, above all, alive.
In this context, the idea of creating a juvenile review board, which town officials have had in the early discussion phase for a while, seems well worth pursuing. The town — the Police Commission, Board of Selectmen, Board of Education, the Kids in Crisis organization and whatever other officials might have a role to play — should back the concept and begin moving it from the idea-under-discussion to the proposal-ready-to-go stage.
First proposed by the late Police Chief John Roche, the idea is to have a local board that might include counselors and attorneys who would work with the young offender and their family to arrange for a program of counseling and community service that would be an alternative to journeying through the juvenile court process.
The plan to initiate counseling that would include other family members is significant. Sometimes, a young person’s misbehavior is a symptom of broader family problems. Getting to the heart of those can help everyone.
The review board might not always be the best option. Sometimes, a trip to court and an appearance before a judge may help a kid understand the seriousness of what they’ve been doing. Under the proposal as now being discussed, parents would have the right to opt out of the review board’s process and have their child go through the traditional juvenile court procedures.
It sounds like a good idea. Boards of this sort offer kids in trouble and worried parents another option in other communities that include Westport, Norwalk, Newtown and Greenwhich. Ridgefield ought to join them.