Troubled Teen Should Have Chance To Change

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Last month, a troubled 14-year-old boy walked into a Valley elementary school and cried out for help. He was carrying a loaded handgun.

But this is not the story you might imagine. No shots were fired and no children were left bleeding on the floor. This was not another premeditated Columbine High School massacre.

This young man never pointed the gun at anyone, and he allowed the students to leave until only his teacher and two friends, who wanted to stay, were left with him. He put the gun down on a desk and surrendered to the teacher, who then hugged him and told him everything would be all right.

But is it going to be all right?

Sean Botkin will be tried as an adult and faces 57 felony counts, including kidnapping and aggravated assault. But he is not an adult who needs to be sent to prison. He is a young boy who needs help learning how to cope so he can become a productive member of society. If he is tried as a juvenile, that help can be made available.

But the Maricopa County Attorney has other plans.

There is no doubt that many parents were frightened that day when they learned a boy had brought a gun to school, but as we learn more, there are many compassionate parents who now wonder if the proposed punishment which could ruin this boy's life really fits the crime.

If your son or grandson was emotionally troubled, you'd hope he could talk to you or see a counselor at school for help.

But young people aren't always mature enough to know when they need a rope to hang on to. And now, with the county attorney's decision to prosecute Sean Botkin as an adult, the teen's lifeline has tangled into a hangman's noose.

This week, take a moment to ask that Sean be tried as a juvenile and that his punishment include a counselling program that will help him rehabilitate and safely re-enter society when he turns 18 years old.

Write to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, 301 West Jefferson Street, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85003.

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