Would you cut off your daughter's ponytail to keep her out of juvie?
A Utah mom did and now she regrets it. Valerie Bruno has filed a formal complaint against the juvenile court judge who made her chop off her 13-year-old daughter's locks in court recently as a form of punishment. The girl and her friend were caught on the restaurant's video camera cutting the hair of a 3-year-old girl with scissors at a McDonald's and harassing another girl by telephone.
Unacceptable bullying behavior? Most definitely.
By the young teens – and the judge.
What kind of lesson is learned by public humiliation other than proving that you have the power to be just as ruthless and cruel as the offender? Isn't this why we've done away with dunce caps, public stocks, stonings and floggings?
Miami has had its own share of discipline on display for the masses. In April, Miami New Times reported that Tarvon Young, a fifth-grader at Richard Allen Leadership Academy, stood outside his school for 90 minutes holding a sign that said, "I was sent to school to get an education. Not to be a bully... I was not raised this way!" Months earlier, seventh-grader Michael Bell Jr. was forced to stand on a street corner for Spring Break with a sign because he received three Fs on his report card.
Entertaining for some, yes. Effective? I doubt it.
We share so much of our lives publicly today. Do we really need to make a spectacle of our kids to get a point across to them?
Humiliation is a nasty, disrespectful way of treating anybody. The only lesson these kids probably learned – other than fear of their parents – is that if you have a problem with someone, the best way to deal with it is to use power to ridicule that person.
George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley criticized the Utah judge's ponytail punishment this week, saying that unconventional sentences that seek to shame defendants are steadily increasing and turning state courts into circus shows. Turley says such tactics undermine justice and convey the wrong message.
"The use of arbitrary and capricious authority is not what this girl needs to learn," he told the Associated Press. The court is showing her he can do to her what she did to other people."
Mindy Moss, mother of the 3-year-old whose hair was cut off in the McDonald's, said she approved of the sentence and even spoke up during the hearing when she felt Bruno had not cut off enough of her daughter's hair. The judge then directed Bruno to cut the ponytail all the way "to the rubber band."
And there's the root of the problem. We all know revenge is sweet. But our courts are set up to discourage that type of instant gratification because it's short-term and doesn't really fix the problem. Where were the adults in that courtroom?
Isn't it our job to come up with an effective, constructive punishment that leaves a lasting impression on our kids, not a lousy haircut?