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Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network.
To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 206-1942.

Posted On: December 28, 2012

HOW YOUR MASSACHUSETTS CHILD MAY BE AT RISK WHEN LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATES POSSIBILITIES OF SCHOOL VIOLENCE

Massachusetts law enforcement, as well as school officials, Are trying to send the message out to old and young alike that threats about showing up at schools with weapons is not going to be tolerated. Part and parcel of the message is that jokes about school shootings and like murders are not funny in the least.

Attorney Sam's Take mentioned yesterday that the arrest recently of a 15-year-old girl who supposedly requested somebody bring violence to her school was an overreaction. I stand by that observation. However, it is an overreaction that one must expect during these times immediately following the tragic shooting in Newtown Connecticut.

When I began this topic earlier this week, I mentioned the idea of "felony stupidity". In these cases, where kids are posting comments about shooting up schools, whether in bad humor or truly meaning it, One has to question such kids mental abilities.

But, then, what comes to mind is some of Bill Cosby's humor about kids. He contends that kids have "Brain damage". He goes on to give funny examples. As there is nothing funny about this topic, I will leave you to look up those comments on your own. No, kids do not necessarily have brain damage. However, we do know that they are biologically not yet developed. If brains are not fully developed. They are kids. And part of Being a kid, often, is to make stupid mistakes.

So, here is the problem that now faces all of us and our kids. We are living at a time where, understandably, there is no tolerance for any suggestion of school violence. It doesn't matter if it's a joke, and over statement, or cry for help. They will be no tolerance fart. How do We react then two things for which we have no tolerance? These days, we bring in law enforcement. True, the result will impede our kids abilities to get further in life, but, the idea is to prevent the shootings. Clearly, a bunch of kids lying dead because of the shooting is worse than the roadblocks put up in the criminal records of these other kids.

So much so that today mere rumor of the possibility of such violence is enough to begin a criminal investigation.

I cannot help but notice that this puts us in a situation in which we are choosing the "best" of "two evils". Is it necessary? Well, it seems so. Should it be necessary? I have to think that, As we near the year 2013, we should be able to do better. However, that would take thought and care and time. We don't like to spend those things On such problems. We tend to prefer quick and knee-jerk feel-good solutions.

This is particularly true, because most people still do not understand the realities of the criminal justice system. I am doing my best to rectify that with things like this blog. However, it appears that woefully few others are terribly interested in doing so. As a result, too many people still believe that folks who are "basically good" will not end up in trouble. They will never need to be brought to the criminal courts. They will never make such mistakes.

And so, they need not worry about the intricacies of the system. They merely need to support it. And so they do. And so, for now at least, the system remains as it is.

So, we get to the question of what, then, do the last three days of blogs have to do with you and your children...other than worry about school violence.

The bottom line is that your kids are at risk... and not simply because of the threat of school violence. They are also at risk for being misunderstood and brought in front of the court and thereby tainting their record.

The first thing you need to do is to recognize reality. Kids do stupid things. That's sort of their job. Recognize that and discuss in no uncertain terms the realities of these foolish actions. Make sure, as best you can, that they know how easily they can be misunderstood and arrested for that misunderstanding. And then, as ever is our jobs as parents, be vigilant.

The next step is to take extremely seriously any suggestion of an investigation or accusation against your child at the school or anywhere else. This means retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Yes, you want someone who also has experience in juvenile matters. It is tempting to shrug one's shoulders and believe that there is no need to get a lawyer, because everything will settle out because, after all, your kid is a good kid.

That thought process will likely bring your child, if ever accused or misunderstood, a criminal record.


These days, we are also hearing more and more about kids having things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the like. What does this mean? It means you need to be even more vigilant. As a society, we do not seem to be doing all that well with emotionally disturbed people, not that ADHD is such a disturbance however, anything that affects our kids behavior has to be watched carefully. Law-enforcement is not going to simply turn away from a potentially dangerous situation simply because the child has issues. As far as law enforcement is concerned, particularly these days, Its primary role is to protect the school in its inhabitants from violence.

Anything else is not only secondary, it places them at risk for "sleeping on the job" accusations.

Often, I will hear parents and children alike say to me that there is nothing to worry about in a given situation because " it has never brought a problem before".

It only takes once. Sometimes only one moment. And then the future is changed irrevocably.


On that happy note, have a great, safe and Law-abiding weekend!