Opinion: What messages are authorities sending Truckee youth?
Thank you to editor Kevin MacMillan for his recent opinion article titled, “What to learn from recent examples of youth conduct.”
Our community and school district spend thousands of dollars in prevention, intervention drug and alcohol programs, invested time and education with the Truckee High School Every 15 Minutes program and Athlete Committed pledge program, and have the Wellness Center on THS campus that provides many services and resources for our teens.
We hope the message sinks in. We often hear “kids will be kids,” and “the frontal lobe of their brain is not fully developed” — hence, “they just weren’t thinking.” So can we really trust our teenagers?
Two Saturdays ago, many Truckee High School juniors organized a campout at Long Lake. Word got out when suspicious, untrusting parents blew the whistle without doing their own personal inquiries with students and other parents.
Based on my talks with the kids, approximately 25 students showed up to camp, fish, swim and enjoy the outdoors in which they live in. They came equipped with tents, food, firewood, and even a valid campfire permit issued from the Truckee U.S. Forest Service office to a student.
Officials from Calfire, a U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement officer, and Placer County Sheriff’s Office with canine unit came out to break up the “rager.”
Students reported a Forest Service officer patted down four students, checked all students’ sobriety by shining flashlights into their eyes, checked two vehicles with consent to search, interviewed students and wrote their names down, or videoed them during questioning.
And what did they find? Clean, cooperative and respectful students — many wearing their “Athlete Committed” T-shirts.
I would not have had a problem with the officers telling students to put out the fire and go to sleep now that it was nearing 10 p.m. And I am thankful for the time and effort it took them to check up on our youth.
The problem I feel is without probable cause, the students had their right to assemble violated. Why did officers take charge and control? U.S. Forest Service law enforcement had students put out their fire (even when a campfire permit was administered to them), take down their tents, pack up their gear, haul out their firewood, and hike out at 10 p.m. to drive home.
What message do you think was sent by these officers’ actions?
I applaud and commend every student who went out there with the innocent idea of bonding with their classmates. They are positive role models, and showed such a high level of integrity, cooperation and respectfulness when told to “break it up.”
It is my hope these students can take courage to respectfully question authority when they are doing the right thing, but often presumed teenagers just can’t be trusted. High five to you juniors for being caught having fun safely and responsibly!
Margie Seehuetter is a Truckee resident.