Editor: In their race for commonwealth’s attorney, Parisa Tafti and Theo Stamos have discussed criminal charges involving children and youth. They have referred to a long-ago felony charge involving two 10-year-olds at an elementary school in Arlington, when Stamos worked in the office of commonwealth’s attorney.

At the time, I was principal of that school, and I have always regretted that we had no chance to follow normal school procedures for such an incident.

A teacher called in the Arlington police when he tasted hand-sanitizing soap in his water container in his classroom. The school was notified of the fact that the two children had been charged with a felony only after the charge had been filed. Only after months had passed were the felony charges reduced to misdemeanors, with the possibility of expungement at age 18. One child’s family moved away immediately. The incident was heavily publicized, and the school community had to work hard to regain the trust of some families.

Had the school been able to follow its standard disciplinary rules, the outcome may not have been so detrimental to these children.

Although this episode occurred years ago, the lessons learned should be applicable today. I do not believe that prosecuting these children helped in any way, nor did it conform with our values in Arlington. Prosecuting children or teenagers as adults is not educational. Such prosecutions have life-long negative, and sometimes dire, consequences.

I respect the arguments about keeping charges appropriate made by Tafti, who will have my vote.

Kathie Panfil, Arlington

(3) comments

SA mom

Oh Please. First, this was over 10 years ago when Stamos wasn't CA. Second, the teacher called the police. If the teacher had any confidence that normal APS process would have protected him, he would have used it. I have heard from numerous teachers throughout the system that principals don't have their backs, that the inmates run the asylum and when a teacher complains, they pay a price professionally. Teachers have almost no disciplinary tools available, and principals are part of the problem. So are parents. These kids said that they hoped to poison their teacher and kill him. He had the right to get the situation handled in a way that protected him. The superintendent doesn't want bad reports and principals play along. I'm sure there are plenty of regrets on many sides, but hanging this on Stamos? No.


Note that "hand sanitizer soap" is not soap as stated in Ms. Panfill's letter to the editor. "Soap" conjures the image of innocence, i.e. what harm can come from "washing your mouth out with soap" when some not so nice words are said. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has this to say about hand sanitizers: "The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 40% to 95%. Most hand sanitizer products contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors. By comparison, wine and beer contain about 10-15% and 5-10% alcohol, respectively. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in children. Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest and death."


They were 10 years old. Can you possibly expect a 10 year old to understand the full extent of what they were doing? They had at least another 16-17 years before their brains fully developed. And thanks to how these cases were handled, those development stages were greatly compromised by the prosecution's office.

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