I've always had this secret fear that if I can't afford my kids every opportunity in the world (Violin lessons! Tae Kwon Do! Conversational Mandarin!), they'll end up in juvie before they hit high school. So much for that theory. Sixteen-year-old Max Laytan, the Brooklyn teen who turned himself in earlier this week for setting fire to PS 29's playground in Cobble Hill, seemed to have it all. He lived in the very neighborhood where he set the fire, he's a student at the very pricey, very prestigious St. Ann's School, which has been called "the Brown University of NYC private schools" (tuition is approximately $28,000 per year), and his dad is a big shot in the movie biz (distributor of films including The King's Speech).
Despite that, he still has the forehead-slappingly bad judgment of any average teenage boy.
Turns out Laytan and his pals were attempting to make a Jackass-inspired YouTube video involving one of the teens going down the slide in flames when the fire got out of hand, melting said slide and causing a grand total of about $50,000 in damage. D'oh! I can't imagine how I'd feel if it was one of my kids who'd pulled this stunt ... horrified? Angry? More than anything else, I think I'd feel responsible, even though I'm sure at some point in Laytan's life, his parents had a talk with him about fire safety and/or respecting other people's property. Ugh, does this mean that despite all our efforts to the contrary, our kids could still end up as criminals?
Laytan and three other boys are now being charged with felony arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and trespassing. Even worse, Laytan and the other 16-year-old in the group are being charged as adults. Bet the two 15-year-olds have never been so happy to be the runts in the pack! Oh, and by the way, all of the boys involved are St. Ann's students, so if you were forming any theories about kids from the wrong side of the tracks bringing their bad influence over to a Multmillion-Dollar Brownstone neighborhood, don't bother.
Parents of the guilty parties have already put up the $50,000 to cover repairs. Hopefully that's a comfort to local families who frequented the now-singed jungle gym, though none of those moms will ever be able to push her kid down a slide again without remembering The Day the Playground Melted. We won't know what's to become of the boys until after their undisclosed court dates. In the end, it's just another case of teens trying something dumb and having it unexpectedly blow up in their faces, so I guess the lesson here is that Stupid Adolescent Syndrome crosses class lines.
And that teenage boys, rubbing alcohol, and matches do not, under any circumstances, mix.
Do you think "advantaged" teens get into just as much trouble as "disadvantaged" teens?
Image via stefuhnee_kayy/Flickr