The Criminalization of Foolishness

This story evolved a little too fast for my slow blogging pace over the last few weeks. But it’s a great illustration of how far down the rabbit hole our society has gone:

Mesa police announced late Wednesday afternoon that the case against a Red Mountain High School student accused of indecent exposure was closed because “all parties involved no longer desire prosecution.”

The announcement came hours after a Maricopa County Attorney’s Office representative announced the office had decided against prosecuting the student. He had been booked on a felony charge related to exposing himself in a team photo that appeared in the school’s yearbook and in programs sold at football games.

Osborn was arrested Saturday. Officers said he told authorities he was dared by a Red Mountain High School teammate to do the stunt when the photo was taken on the school bleachers in August. It shows a smiling Osborn, then 18, standing in the second row; his penis was exposed through the top of the waistband of his football uniform.

Police said Wednesday the school’s principal reported the incident in compliance with Arizona’s mandatory reporting laws.

Mesa police booked Osborn on one count of furnishing obscene material to minors, a felony, and 69 misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure. Ten faculty members and 59 students were present when Osborn exposed himself and are considered victims, according to police and court documents.

So, let’s sum up. Kid does stupid prank on a dare. No one notices for a long time. Then someone does notice and hides behind “mandatory reporting laws” for turning the case over to police. The police then do what police do: arrest him and charge the shit out of him. Only a social media campaign and the refusal of his teammates to press charges kept him out prison and off a sex offender registry.

Set aside the issue of whether the principal had a choice or not. Mandatory reporting laws are tricky and it’s possible that he had to turn this over, no matter what his personal views on the subject. The general point stands: our schools have adopted the mentality of routinely calling the police to handle issues that could be handled with internal discipline. And then they always act shocked when this results in massive criminal charges against a kid for exposing his pecker or a girl being bodyslammed or kids being expelled/charged for stuff that isn’t even a crime.

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