Commentary: Recent incidents involving youth saddening, Editor Ken Vance

Sometimes young people don’t think before they act

In the blink of an eye, the lives of many people can change.


Like many of you, I read with great interest this week’s story by reporter Chris Brown about the sentencing of Taylor Smith, the 18-year-old young lady who pushed her friend Jordan Holgerson, then 16, off the Moulton Falls Bridge last August. Here’s a link to the story:


The story and its many details saddened me a great deal. The two families and many of their friends will be impacted for a lifetime. I’m not going to go as far as to call it a tragedy, but I certainly struggled to find a silver lining.


It reminded me of a parenting moment of my own, that thankfully, was far less impactful of the one that landed Holgerson in PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center for three days last summer and placed Smith in the Clark County Jail for two days this week.


I am blessed with a wonderful son, who is now 28 years old. I believe it was about 15 years ago that I took my son and a friend of his to a small college football game in the region. My son and his friend were in the backseat of our SUV and we were pulling out of the stadium parking lot. My son had a large cup that was about half full of a milkshake that he no longer desired. For some reason, and much to my surprise, he thought it was a good idea to lean out of our vehicle and try to play target practice with the drink, aiming it at a sign that we were about to pass by. I was startled and stopped our vehicle immediately.


I didn’t always handle every parenting situation perfectly. I like to think I handled this one pretty well. As my heart rate quickly returned to normal, I explained to him that I understood that he didn’t intend to do something egregious, or something that could cause harm to himself, us or others. But, I tried to make him understand that even when you don’t intend to cause harm to someone or yourself, something can easily go quite wrong. I went through some scenarios on how that situation could have gone wrong. He could have caused me or another driver to have an accident, or drive into a pedestrian. He could have fallen from the vehicle through the open window. Also, if a police officer saw him throw something from the vehicle, he could have been charged with a crime.


Now, my son was not a saint and it wasn’t the only time in his youth that he made a bad decision. I’ve also watched true tragedies unfold over the years involving young people that I’ve been close to. I don’t share those stories here, because of their tragic nature and because they’re not my stories to tell. I know throwing a drink from a moving vehicle isn’t on the same level as violently pushing someone off a bridge, causing them to fall 52 feet to the water below. But, the incident I described was a life experience that made me pause and reflect.


I get frustrated with young people today. I get frustrated that they often don’t appear to think much before they act. It breaks my heart when a young person experiences hardship. I wish they could each grow up into perfect adults without having to live through abusive situations, broken homes, or dealing with hunger or poverty. But, so often, young people make their lives worse with split-second decisions that create situations that could have, or should have, been avoided altogether.


I felt the same way about the recent incident at Gaiser Middle School when nine juveniles were arrested after causing a disturbance at a season-ending basketball tournament. Just as was the case with the incident at Moulton Falls last summer, lives were changed and for what purpose?


I will say that when I was sternly lecturing my son after the cup-throwing incident, he sat quietly and listened. He then sat quietly and reflected much of the ride home. It is my hope that the young people who were impacted by the Moulton Falls incident and the Gaiser Middle School melee, as well as those who just read or were told about it, reflect long enough that when they are in a position to make a split-second decision, they will make the right one and not have to live with the ramifications that come with poor choices.


At least I can hope.


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