I neglected to cover plenty of important juvenile justice stories in the past week, I realize. But the one that jumps out concerns the arrest of six Florida girls (ranging in age from 14 to 18 ) for their alleged role in the kidnapping and assault of another girl, a 16-year-old classmate. The thirty-minute beating–during which the victim lost consciousness and suffered a concussion–was filmed by one of the aggressors; the video was widely distributed last week in the mainstream media and online. The girls, meanwhile, have had their initial hearings and are currently awaiting trial as adults. They could be sentenced to life in prison.
This is the kind of juvenile justice story that grabs attention: it’s got the gender angle, the technology angle, the “what has become of our children?” angle-a moral-outcry trifecta. No surprise that People magazine picked it up in this week’s issue. No surprise, either, that the local news programs showed such generous clips in their segments on the story. It’s awful to watch, almost pornographic; there is no way to sit through that footage without feeling like you’re being asked to participate in the violence. And there’s no good reason to post it at length, either, except to titillate viewers.
As the story moves forward, I’ll be watching the developments closely, not the tapes.