Most Americans first experiment with alcohol far away from the supervision of adults who might teach them the responsible way to use the stuff. So when teens are presented with the opportunity to drink, they often overindulge. There's an unstated logic that if you don't know when you'll be able to drink next, you might as well make the most of it this time. Couple this covert drunkenness with a suburban infrastructure devoid of public transportation, and teens—who don't want to admit to their parents that they've been drinking—often choosing to drive home, and you've got a recipe for disaster. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning."
But if it's hard to argue that teen drinking ever accomplishes anything of substance, this week underage drinking actually seems to have prevented a tragedy.
In Maryland, a 16-year-old boy planning to carry out a school shooting had his plans foiled after he drank too much whiskey. The boy had planned to shoot up and bomb his school on Halloween, and even brought a gun to school, but postponed the event when he realized that he had forgotten his bombs at home and that he was too intoxicated. The boy admitted his plans to police on Sunday, when he was questioned for breaking into cars and discovered with a stolen gun.
The boy said that he had been bullied and teachers had refused to help him, which other students deny. Whether the bullying was real or merely perceived, it's clear that the kid was troubled. Obviously this is a sad case—for parents, teachers, students, and for the boy himself, who's now facing criminal charges as an adult and serious time in prison. Still, it's a lot less sad than it might have been if not for the whole reckless adolescent alcohol consumption thing.
Here's the rest of this week in teens:
-Sometimes it's not the teen drinking itself that's the problem—for the underage crowd, the procurement of alcohol can be the main issue. Teens can steal from their parents or try their luck with a fake ID, but for the truly desperate, asking an older (often homeless) stranger to to make the buy can be the best option. But in Texas, one such game of "Hey Mister" went horribly wrong this week. A 16-year-old boy approached a 58-year-old man to buy him beer and when the man refused, the teen ran him over, killing him. It's not clear in news reports whether the boy meant to actually murder the guy, but it's a reminder that teens are impulsive, and also that maybe we should just let them buy their own beer.
-In case you hadn't already noticed, teens are mistake-making machines. All adults can do is try to create a world of soft landings. We do our best to make sure that adolescent missteps aren't permanent (that's why you have to be 18 to get a tattoo). And we all regret our younger selves' poor decision, so when an ex-teen publicly acknowledges their mistakes, we should listen. Cameron Lacroix is the former teen computer whiz who, in 2005, at the age of 15, hacked into Paris Hilton's Sidekick and leaked her nudes. This was the first high-profile case of stolen celebrity photos, a phenomenon that continues to this day. This week, speaking to NBC News, Lacroix told Hilton, "Paris, I'm sorry I put your information online. I should never have done it. I wouldn't want it done to me." Lacroix is about to go to prison for four years for his decade-long cybercrime spree, but he promises that upon release he'll help law enforcement and "use his hacking for good."
-It's midterm season, a stressful time for college students. Combine constant studying and a lack of sleep with some Adderall and you've got a recipe for mental breakdown. At Colorado State University, one 19-year-old sophomore was arrested after stealing an ambulance that paramedics had left running, then crashing it, and refusing to listen to police orders to drop the Wheat Thins in his arms. According to the police, the boy was found carrying the study drug and talking about "following the bright lights and other ramblings which were not relevant to the incident at hand." As the Coloradoan notes, it's actually standard procedure for ambulance drivers to keep their vehicles running. This "allows for faster transport and ensures all devices in the patient cabin can work immediately." According to hospital spokesperson Kelly Tracer, "However, in light of Sunday morning's theft, we will definitely reevaluate the protocol."
-In 2005, after a successful tryout with the Baltimore Ravens, Molly Shattuck became the oldest NFL cheerleader of all time. Now 47, she was arraigned this Wednesday on charges of third-degree rape, unlawful sexual contact, and providing alcohol to minors, after one of her kid's 15-year-old classmates told police that he and Shattuck had a sexual encounter at a vacation home. Shattuck, who has pleaded not guilty, is "very upset" about the charges, according to her defense attorney. The former cheerleader, described as "Baltimore's answer to Martha Stewart," is no stranger to media attention; in addition to her time with the Ravens, she stars in exercise DVDs, is a prominent philanthropist, and also appeared on the reality TV show Secret Millionaire, in which she donated $190,000 to people who help the poor.
Stories about attractive older women having sex with teen boys often inspire terrible comments like, "what a lucky ass kid," but situations like this really aren't funny. So it's a good sign that, as the Baltimore Sun put it, the media is "surprisingly" showing restraint in its coverage of the story. Maybe people are starting to realize that assault of an underage teen is a serious issue, regardless of gender.
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