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