Judging from readers’ responses on The Telegram website, there is apparently an epidemic in St. John’s of young hooligans throwing snowballs at moving vehicles, raising the prospect of shocked motorists losing control and instigating mayhem and destruction on the roads.
Despite what some people seem to think, a flying ball of snow cannot be equated to a rock or cinder block dropped from an overpass, a far more stupid and violent act that has indeed caused death in other places.
Snowballs thwacking against car windows are less of a threat to road safety than, say, drivers who talk on cellphones, and the many motorists who deem posted speed limits to be minimums rather than maximums.
As for the 15-year-old who allegedly threw a snowball at a taxi and allegedly received a punch or two in return, we can only wonder how he worded his complaint to the police.
“Some guy punched me.”
“Why did he punch you?”
“I dunno. He was mad, I guess.”
“Why was he mad at you?”
“Maybe ’cause I threw a snowball at his car.”
At that point, hopefully, the attending officer replied, “And what did you think would happen?”
If it is true the cab driver punched the kid, he went too far, of course. If he is found guilty of assault, a judge will undoubtedly give him a stern lecture to that effect, and something else besides.
If the teen is charged, his name will be banned from publication, since he is a minor. The public won’t know his name, but they’ll know his characteristics. He’s a bully. He’s a whiner. He’s probably a Daddy’s Boy, which is to say, an obnoxious, rude, cowardly crybaby.
How do we know this? Because he called the cops. He thinks he has the right to do whatever he wants to other people, but they can’t do anything to him.
If the cab driver is convicted of assault, let’s hope the judge also
has a stern warning for the complainant: “Look, kid, if you act like a bastard toward people, they will act like bastards right back.”
It’s overly popular to blame the school system for too many of society’s ills, but in instances such as this, it’s valid. This kind of behaviour can be traced directly to the so-called “zero-tolerance” policy that has been in vogue for years.
Educators have long boasted zero-tolerance makes schools safer and creates a learning environment that is polite, respectful, kind, etc.
It hasn’t, actually. What it has done is empower bullies. The rhetoric of zero-tolerance sounds comforting, but its essential drawback is that it — by definition — treats bullies and victims equally, rather than daring to point a finger of blame at the instigator.
A short sample, taken from a real situation: Bully A has been bullying Victim B for weeks. One day in the schoolyard, the bullying escalates. Bully A tries to beat up Victim B, who fights back. Both are called into the principal’s office. Both are suspended for three days.
The message zero-tolerance sends to bullies is that they will not be singled out for blame.
The message sent to victims is that they can’t stick up for themselves, and adults won’t stick up for them.
The RNC was roundly mocked for stating motorists, if struck by a snowball, should call the police.
Some months ago, an elderly man told of being harassed by a group of young hoods who were throwing rocks at his house and breaking windows. The police admitted they were powerless to stop it.
But if a snowball hits your vehicle, a squad car will come, siren wailing. Sure.
Cops, schools, parents — none have the answer.
Maybe a judge will.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.