ACLU Supports Teen's Right to Be a Deplorable Human Being

Jeanne Sager

videotapingTalk about a balancing act. We want to teach our kids to stand up for themselves, especially in light of the bullying epidemic that seems to have taken hold of our schools. But does that mean we can't teach them to be nice people too?

A story out of New Jersey is making me think the two will never co-exist. A teen girl named Khaliah Fitchette has found backing from the ACLU as she fights the Newark Police Department for handcuffing her for using her cellphone to videotape a man who had collapsed on a city bus. She was eventually released when police realized that as a juvenile (she was 16 at the time), she couldn't actually be charged with obstruction of justice.

The ACLU says the high school senior and soon-to-be Cornell student shouldn't have been arrested because she had a right to film the cops moving in to help the man out. She was in a public space, and she wasn't impeding access to the man. OK, that's probably true. I wasn't there; I can't report on that.

But this is a girl who was just standing there taping a guy who has COLLAPSED. On a city bus. She may know her "rights" to videotape anything in a public forum. But that doesn't make it "right."

That's the balancing act for parents. To teach our kids to stand up for their rights, but to put equal focus on being a productive member of society. Think of the Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, they have a court-protected right to picket at funerals. But that doesn't make them 'good" people for doing it.

Poor treatment from the cops doesn't give Fichette a pass on what she did to a poor man in medical distress. Morally, ethically, she was still wrong. When someone collapses on a bus, I'd like to think my child would be the first one over there helping out. Even if that means saying "hey, cops, what can I DO? Can I clear people out of here for you? Can I call someone? Can I do ANYTHING?" Fichette may have been within legal bounds as a citizen of New Jersey, but she was outside the bounds of what makes a good human being.

What would you say if this was your daughter?


Image via dno1967b/Flickr

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