A 13-year-old Washington state boy was recently arrested, then released to the custody of his parents after making online threats of shooting up and blowing up his middle school. He also threatened to kill one of his teachers, specifically named, and then kill himself. It turns out he didn’t have the means to carry out his threats, which prompted officials to close five schools in the area for a day.
A local television station interviewed a mother who said she felt bad for the boy. She also said that when she told her young son about the situation, he had become very anxious and hadn’t wanted to go to school. Well, fancy that!
For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would feel bad for the 13-year-old. He’s old enough to know he was doing something very, very wrong. He committed a felony that resulted in significant emotional distress for lots of folks as well as considerable economic cost to the school system, parents who had to stay home from work and local employers.
The child in question is not a victim. He’s a perpetrator; a young criminal. Whether he already qualifies as a young sociopath is yet to be determined, but what he did was certainly sociopathic. In other words, this youngster may already be a menace to society. In his fascinating but largely overlooked book “Savage Spawn,” psychologist and popular mystery novelist Jonathan Kellerman proposes that from early ages some children – even some children of reasonably good parents – seem inexorably headed toward lives of crime.
He deserves to be punished in a way that drives home the anti-social nature of what he did and hopefully deters him from future criminal behavior.
To the issue of a young boy becoming anxious when his parents told him what had happened, I marvel at the fact they told him in the first place. This sort of thing is unnecessary when parents follow my simple Rule of Telling: Tell a child what he NEEDS to know, when he NEEDS to know it. Would he have heard from other kids at school the next day? Yes, but by then the facts would have been in and the story probably would have circulated in a way that would have caused the boy no anxiety at all.
In this information-overload world we live in, adults need to protect and maintain the innocent naivety of children as long as possible.