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Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy
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Sex Offender or Teenage Jerk?


Ever look at a map of the local sex offenders, the ones with little dots showing where the guys live who prey upon helpless little children? Well, as of this week, there are two dots that won't come off until the guys die of old age — which could be quite a while.

Right now, they're both 16.

The boys committed their crime at age 14. And just what was it?

Horseplay. Stupid, disgusting horseplay. The kids pulled down their pants and sat on two 12-year-olds' faces for the simple reason that they "thought it was funny" and were trying to get their "friends to laugh."

That's how one of the teens explained himself to a Somerset County, N.J., judge back in 2008. (His friend headed off a trial by pleading guilty to the same act.)

The judge then considered what he had in front of him, and rather than think, "These punks could use some community service time and maybe a suspension from school — plus an in-person apology to the kids they sat on," he thought, "These two are sex offenders."

After all, what they had done was, technically, "criminal sexual contact" with intent to humiliate or degrade. And so sex offenders he ruled they were. That meant they were subject to Megan's Law. In New Jersey, such offenders, even as young as 13, have to register for life.

This past week, the young men appealed their sentence and lost.

What does it mean to be on the sex offender list? First of all, the public knows where you live. Websites and newspapers can publish your photo. So can TV news. Parents can warn their kids never to go near you.

In many states, registered sex offenders have to live a certain distance from where kids congregate, be that a school, day care center, park or bus stop. So these young men may have to move to the sticks.

When they get a job (Good luck! Not many places are dying to hire registered sex offenders), they have to notify the authorities of where they're working.

They also have to re-register four times a year, and if they miss an appointment, they can go to jail. In some communities, they have to turn their lights off on Halloween. In others, they have to answer the door saying, "I'm a registered sex offender." All because of this stupid prank they pulled at age 14.

And meantime, their presence as a dot on the map is terrifying everyone in their neighborhood. After all, they're on the sex offender list!

"These lists were originally conceived by most of the voters who cheered them on as lists of people who had some sort of psychological compulsion to sexual predation," explains Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. People assume anyone on it is "a permanent menace."

These guys are more like Dennis the Menace, which is why we have to change the criteria that land folks on the registry. These young men were never "predators." And as the years go by, the idea that they pose a danger to children will become even more ridiculous. When you're 20, 30, 40 — 80! — you don't do the things you did as a 14-year-old trying to impress your buddies. Why is Megan's Law blind to human nature?

If it were making kids safer, maybe we could overlook how obtuse it is. But a 2008 study found that, in New Jersey at least — where little Megan Kanka, for whom the law is named, was murdered — the law showed no effect in reducing the number of sexual re-offenses or reducing the number of victims.

It's time to change the law and the registry. Otherwise, too many of the dots on a sex offender map will be victims, not criminals.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ( and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



4 Comments | Post Comment
Two large kids pinned two smaller kids down, pulled off their pants and put their feces smelling asses on their faces? That is not "rough housing", that is way beyond roughhousng. I think the courts got it right, actually. These two turds are showing early indications of sexually deviant behavior, combined with a need to take power over weaker, more defenseless others.
This is NOT normal horseplay, in any sense. You know who was once a kid? Every sexual deviant rapist and child molester on the list. The list is a representation of society's disgust and lack of tolerance for the presence of sexually abusive individuals in our society. It acts as a deterrent to OTHER budding sexual sociopaths that such behavior is not going to be tolerated, ever.
Yes, kids make mistakes. But some mistakes should be seen for what they are: indications of sociopathic behaviour. I'm with the judge on this one.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Ed Itorial
Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:06 AM
I don't believe the author is arguing that these kids deserve no punishment. These boys have been given a life sentence of never being able to get a decent job or live in society as a free citizens because of this. They are still children!

Our country is being more and more like Saudia Arabia and places like that. It's barbaric to give a child a life sentence. It's like cutting off the hand of a thief.
Comment: #2
Posted by: HBF
Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:19 AM
Hmmm. Wonder how Lenore would have responded to this case had some older, bigger boy wrestled her son Izzy to the ground and plopped his butt and testicles in her son's face. There is definately a sexual aspect to this particular episode of bullying. Just saying.
That being said--both of these little twerps need punishment. Probation at the very least. I don't know about labeling them as sex offenders permanently for this particular offence, however.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Ho hum
Tue Aug 2, 2011 12:58 PM
My guess is, these two kids watched too much wrestling. Ever heard of the "stink-face"? This was a move, employed by a rather zoftig wrestler, where he would throw his opponent into a corner turnbuckle, the opponent would fall to a seated position, then the wrestler would run into the guy backwards, rubbing his rear end into his opponents face. The wrestler did this move for years, humiliating dozens of people. Of course, he kept his wrestling gear on, but those wrestling tights don't cover much. Point is, I know I used wrestling moves on friends and siblings as a child, and I'm NOT saying we need to ban television, I'm saying there could be a NON-sexual reason these kids did this. Not saying it was right, or that they don't deserve some punishment (any form of bullying deserves punishment), but a life-time punishment for this act is absurd. Make these kids go to counseling, perform community service, hell, send them to a secondary school for troubled youths, but to make an 80-year old man register as a sex offender because 66 years ago he bullied some kid is ridiculous.

Yes, if this happened to my child I would be furious, but I wouldn't expect life-long punishment. Why should a 14-year old receive a worse punishment for bullying than someone who commits manslaughter or armed robbery? Sending these kids to juvie until they're 21 would be better than handicapping them for the rest of their life as sex offenders.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Nathan H.
Fri Aug 5, 2011 12:46 PM
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