The back cover of this year's Portland Police "Safe Summer" booklet, distributed to all public school students, included a fun conversation starter: graphic descriptions of sexual crimes. The page, entitled "Measure 11: An Oregon Law!" is list of crimes that could cause a 15-year-old to be tried as an adult, including...
Sexual Abuse 1: You are baby-sitting or playing with a small child. You have sexual contact with them by touching their penis, vaginal area, or anus, or by making them touch you in those same places. You will go to prison and could be there for 6 years and 3 months.
It is good, I think, to make people aware of what crimes apply to them. I could see reasoning in informing 15-year-olds that they will not be tried as a juvenile for arson, manslaughter, or rape. But I have problems with this pamphlet (after the jump!).
First of all, the "comic book" was distributed to students as young as kindergarteners (The Oregonian reports that the school district has since advised principals to recycle undistributed flyers). The graphic and controversial material should not be put in the hands of such young kids, particularly without warning in a book that mostly contains information about summer programs such as at the Oregon Zoo.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the manner in which the material was presented. The page is written in an accessible, casual way. For example...
MURDERS? YES...Murder and Aggravated Murder will send a 15-year-old to prison. BUT... There are 22 more crimes that WILL MOST LIKELY send a 15-year-old to a lock up program or prison for a long time! Doing a crime means big time!
I understand it's hard to get kids to read these days, what with their game boys and their face books. But does this information need to be presented in such a casual way? What do you think?