Here Are the Handcuffs, Not Your Diploma

Here Are the Handcuffs, Not Your Diploma

Black high school seniors continue to get lost in the cracks, and offers tips for parents of adolescents.

Published June 9, 2011

With his high school graduation in what would have been his near future, 18-year-old high school senior Tyell Morton is now behind bars and could face up to eight years in prison, all for a senior prank.


Morton wore a hooded sweatshirt and latex gloves and placed a concealed package in his high school girl’s restroom earlier this week. His actions were caught on tape and authorities, not knowing what was inside the package, called in the Indiana State Police bomb squad.


To the squad’s surprise, what was in the concealed package was far from a bomb. It was a blow up doll.


Now, Morton, who has never been in trouble with the law, is charged with felony criminal mischief.


"It's not right..." Morton told an Indiana news station. "It was a senior prank. They're blowing it out of proportion. I didn't hurt anybody. I didn't intend to embarrass anybody. What did I do wrong? You know?"


Just weeks ago, another 18-year-old, Courtney Isaiah Thomas, confessed that he wrote racist comments on a restroom wall about himself and four other students. Next to the names he anonymously wrote, "should be lynched" and “I’m going to kill them.” Ironically, Thomas himself is Black.


Thomas was suspended indefinitely, prohibited from returning to school and charged with ethnic intimidation. If he is found guilty this month, he could spend up to two years in prison. He is currently free on a $20,000 personal bond.


The reason for their actions? Possibly a need for attention, or depression, or loneliness. No matter the motive, Harvard University’s School of Public Health and the University of Minnesota Extension School offer parents of adolescents five basic tips that could possibly help to avoid losing more teens to extremes such as these.


They include:


1. Love and Connect. Teens need parents to develop and maintain a relationship with them that offers support and acceptance. The relationship needs to change as the teen gradually matures. To keep the relationship going: Spend plenty of time just listening and pay attention to your teen’s new interests and abilities.


2. Monitor and Observe. Teens need parents to be aware of their activities, including school performance, work experiences, after-school involvement, peer relationships, adult relationships and recreation. Let your teen know that you are interested in their whereabouts, how they are getting there and back, what their activities are and who they will be with.


3. Guide and Limit. Teens need parents to uphold a clear but evolving set of boundaries which keep encouraging increased competence and maturity. Maintain family or “house” rules around the non-negotiable issues like safety and family values while negotiating on things like household tasks and schedules.


4. Model and Consult. Parents should provide teens with ongoing information and support in terms of decision-making, values, skills, goals and getting around in the larger world. Parents teach by example and two-way communication. Set a good example in terms of risk-taking, health habits and emotional control. Express your personal position around moral, social, spiritual and political issues.


5. Provide and Advocate. Teens need parents to make available not only adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, but also a supportive home environment and a network of caring adults. Look for resources in your community, school and religious institution that will provide positive adult and peer relationships.


(Photo: Dylan Martinez /Landov)

Written by Danielle Wright


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