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John is a 15-year old high school student. He is the youngest of four children, and his parents have recently divorced; he lives with his mother. He works part-time at his uncle’s construction company. John makes good grades in school, but he has been disciplined a few times for anger issues.

One day in class, John comments to his teacher that he wants to kill people. The teacher gives him a good talking-to. John quickly says that he is joking, and the matter is dropped.

Shortly thereafter, there was another mass-shooting at a high school in Colorado. John comments to some friends that he knows a better way of getting rid of kids you don’t like. He suggests putting gas in the school’s air vents. One of the friends is alarmed at his fantasies, and reports John to the principal.

The school calls the police and an investigation is conducted. In court, John agrees to perform 8 hours of community service under a diversion program.

So all is well. Not quite.

The following week, John gets into a fight with another student at school. He is arrested and spends one day in jail before being released to his parents. There is not enough evidence to determine fault, and no charges are filed.

However, because the fight happened, the diversion offer is withdrawn; the prosecutor says because the two incidents happened in such a short period of time, a harsher punishment is necessary. John is formally charged with “school interference” and “threatening”.

He goes to trial and is found guilty of both charges. The judge sentences John to spend 9 days in jail and to complete 100-hours of community service. In addition, he is required to attend individual counselling to address his anger-management issues. The judge also orders random drug testing and prohibits internet access during his one-year probation.

What do you think about John’s punishment? Is it too much, or is he just a boy being a boy?

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