Do I press charges on this young person? Compassion or Reality or Both….

Hello frontliners,

Some background context: A 12 year old young person gets angry because he was consequenced for bullying another child from the computer station. His reaction towards his teacher was physical; he pulled the teacher’s hair and slapped the teacher in the face.

The teacher was shaken up and the young 12 year old boy gets sent home with a out of school suspension until an action plan is developed from myself, the school, and other community partners. After the incident, the teacher approached me and debriefed me on the events and asked me about my thoughts.

As I have a good relationship with this 12 year old boy, one of my suggestion was to charge him. Okay so now, you are probably reading this and thinking, “Marleigh what kind of therapeutic suggestion is that?”  This specific child had prior violent acts, but in this scenario it went a level higher by slapping and pulling hair.  Without getting into too much of his family background and his personal profile, lets just focus on his action.

Now let me ask you, what are we teaching the young person if we do not do something about the assault behaviour? What if we decide to let the young person go? Forgive and Forget ? Maybe Marleigh you can just do a restorative circle when he comes back from his suspension (Yes! A great reintegration idea).

Sure… I can for expressing emotions and feelings from all parties…

Still, we are not addressing the behaviour…

He was cognizant to hit and pull, so I beg the question whether intervening with the law might be seen as a teachable moment?

Much can come from this experience:

  1. Education of how certain rules are in place to ensure every human being is safe
  2. Understanding that hurting another human being is not acceptable
  3. A potential gateway to more resources and treatment opportunities for the student and their family
  4.  To learn about the court system
  5. To reflect on the process and the harm it has caused for all parties (himself, family, teacher, etc…)

If you choose or choose not to charge a young person, try to reflect on the following?

  1. If we do not stop this behaviour at 12, will the behaviour begin to increase in a negative way when he becomes an adult?
  2. Can we look at law enforcement or law-type interventions as an ally to a child or youth’s social and emotional development?
  3. If charges are laid, am I prepared as a frontline to start working through the feelings and emotions the young person might be experiencing rather leaving them alone to deal with the stigma this may cause. Stigma in their own identity and within how the community might perceive the situation.

In this scenario, we need to have the balance between compassion and reality in my opinion. Part of our frontline duties sometimes is to facilitate life skill opportunities while practicing a non-judgmental and compassionate lens.

Definitely a difficult situation for any frontline to experience; however, whatever pathway you decide to take (Charge or not charge) the young person, remember the bigger picture. We are here to ensure we work under the premise that we are providing the most quality care for the children, youth, and families we serve.

Thank you for reading 🙂




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