Age of Accountability

I found the news coverage of this situation to be rather curious.  Since I don’t know the personal details, my critique here is not so much of the individuals involved, but primarily with how they are portrayed through media such as this.  

I’ll begin my statements with this clarification, which I’m sure will be stripped off by anyone who cares to quote me out of context, but what the heck.  I don’t in any way approve of this situation or the actions of either individual involved.  The teacher who ran off with a 15-year old student needs to be held accountable for his actions which are most definitely criminal in nature.  
Let me clarify further – 15-year olds are capable of monumentally stupid decisions, which it is the responsibility of their parents and teachers to help dissuade them from.  When either parents or teachers fail in this responsibility either actively or passively, stupid decisions should be expected from time to time.
That being said (or ignored), the coverage in this story is interesting.  Particularly, I find it interesting that there is nothing in this story that indicates any level of participation or responsibility by the young woman involved.  The language is entirely victim-oriented, as though she was somehow rendered unconscious and dragged around Europe in a suitcase.  
At least based on the limited reading I’ve done, and this article in particular, it would seem that the young woman was involved in a highly-inappropriate, ongoing relationship with her math teacher which culminated in them either escaping to Europe together or simply going there on some sort of moron’s holiday, as though this wouldn’t set off international alarms.  I’m guessing that based on the news coverage and their failure to turn themselves in, it was the former.  Somehow, both of these people convinced themselves that they could run away together and avoid identification, capture, and years of therapy and imprisonment, respectively.  
But as far as I can tell, there aren’t any reports that he used a gun on her or otherwise forced her.  And however distasteful it may be to say it, articles like this ultimately teach young people (the few that are likely and able to read them) that they are not responsible for their actions in any way.  See my disclaimer above – I’m not suggesting that 15-year olds are always able to think clearly.  I’m assuming that the teacher encouraged the young woman in her affections and actions, contributing greatly to her poor decision-making over a long period of time, not just in this continental escapade.  For that he should be properly disciplined and punished.  
I suppose that down the line, once things are more clearly understood, it could come out that she was forced into all of this.  But I doubt that.  I suspect that down the line it will turn out that she had a huge crush on him or loved him or whatever, and that she was a willing – if extremely ill-informed or manipulated – partner in the relationship and eventual trip.  But that won’t get reported on.  Certainly not in the headline-grabbing way it has been thus far.  
I’m sure that the papers can’t suggest that she had a role to play in all of this for fear of lawsuits.  The family will likely publicly maintain insistence that she was a complete victim, in no way responsible at all for her actions, and that her teacher is completely and solely to blame for abducting her.  He certainly is responsible.  But failing to acknowledge moral and intellectual failures on both parts is inaccurate and dishonest (again, assuming that new evidence doesn’t come to light to indicate that she was drugged or otherwise forced against her will).  And young people continue to be taught that their actions and thoughts and emotions are not their responsibility.  Not their fault.  Not anything that they can be held legally or morally accountable for.  
That hardly seems healthy, as I suspect that simply reaching the age of majority doesn’t flip a magic switch in a young person’s head from “Not Responsible” to “Responsible”.  I’m glad that the young woman is safe and will be home soon.  I hope that there will be lots of discussions with her by her family – I won’t assume she has a pastor or church community as well – to help her see not just that what she did was wrong (again, insofar as she was acting consciously), but to identify the process by which her thoughts and emotions eventually led her to actions that had disastrous and potentially lethal implications.  
That’s the sort of discussion that ought to be had in homes and classrooms and churches everywhere with young people.  Let’s not insist that they are completely innocent and incapable of any rational thought or action.  Let’s insist that they are, and then help train them how to think and feel and act responsibly.

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