Saturday, February 12, 2005

Treating Children Like Adults

On Monday, jury deliberations in the trial of Christopher Pittman, of South Carolina, will begin. He is on trial for the murders of his grandparents, which he committed when he was twelve years old. He is being tried as an adult, and could be sentenced to life in prison, if convicted. His defense is that he was not responsible because of Zoloft. I have big problem with this situation. I have a child who is twelve, a child who had a bad reaction to Zoloft. He has Aspergers Syndrome, and was prescribed Zoloft to help regulate his mood. We were warned by our doctor to watch him CLOSELY, and if he became more agitated, more prone to anger, or unable to sleep, to stop giving him the medication. So after just after a couple of weeks, it was very apparent to his teachers, and myself, that this was happening, and we stopped the Zoloft, and tried another medication, Depakote. It worked beautifully. So I have personal experience with the good and the bad of a drugged child.

But back to young Christopher Pittman. I don't know if a bad reaction to his meds is a defense for murder. But I do know that murder is an adult action, and a twelve year old is not an adult. If a twelve year old can be held responsible for his or her behaviour by the same standard as an adult, then they should have the whole adult package. Let's let them vote. If they can commit murder as an adult, then they can certainly make an adult decision on who they want to vote for. If they meet the physical standards, let them join the armed forces. We could also get rid of all those pesky child labor laws - if they want to work eight hours a day, let them. Also, if they can with an adult's judgement, commit a murder, they can surely be adult enough to consent to sexual relations. So why are there so many people in prison for sex with twelve year olds? Because a twelve year old is not able to make an adult decision about sex. Or voting. Or career choices. Or killing.

If an adult commits a murder, or any other crime, then yes, they're responsible. Responsibility is what separates a child from an adult. In any other situation, like work, driving, voting, sexual consent, drinking, no one would consider a person under the age of sixteen an adult. And there are some responsible adults than can be held accountable for this crime. His parents who were not acting responsibly for him - they left him in the care of an abusive grandparent. Teachers who failed to watch for that abuse and report it. The doctor who prescribed him a drug known to have adverse effects, and failed to monitor his health. But in this case, the responsible adults have decided that a twelve year old has the blame.

No comments:

Post a Comment