At one point in the not-too-distant past, Americans who decided to risk their lives in service to others were rightfully held up as heroes. Young kids looked up to brave firefighters who rushed into a burning building as everyone else followed their natural instinct to escape.
Today, however, individuals with such ambitions can be literally treated as criminals. Such was apparently the case with 18-year-old Jordan Wiser, a student in Ohio who works as an EMT in addition to completing his high school studies.
When administrators at the Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus received word of a few YouTube videos he posted, they immediately began investigating the aspiring firefighter. According to reports, his account included clips of an interview he conducted with a police officer, video game reviews, and self-defense lessons.
Officials ransacked his vehicle; and, after finding a pocket knife – included as part of his EMT vest – and a stun gun he kept locked in his glove box for self-defense, he was arrested and charged with a felony count of bringing a weapon to school.
Wiser spent almost two weeks in jail for the infraction and, with this black mark on his record, may never be able to achieve his career goals. In addition to being expelled from school, he has also been preemptively kicked out of the Army’s Future Soldiers program.
“I’m 18 years old,” he said, “and this is going to ruin my entire life.”
Despite significant protest from many in the community, the charges against Wiser are likely to stand. One prosecutor involved in the case proudly asserted the county’s technical adherence to the law in treating this young man as a dangerous felon.
Harold Specht said his office charges individuals with “everything that we feel they are guilty of,” indicating that he is “guilty of a felony.”
He conceded that “there’s a load of people out here that just think we’re the devil,” though he said it is “not the case” that prosecutors are ruining Wiser’s life.
There have been plenty of other cases similar to his, as kids face lifelong consequences for a simple mistake or even an infraction they were unaware they committed. Another high school student was recently threatened with criminal charges after driving his father’s car to school. Unbeknownst to him, the vehicle contained a fishing knife that administrators found during a ‘routine’ search.
While students should be able to expect safe campuses, they also deserve administrators who will use common sense in dealing with possible weapon rule violators. Turning good kids into criminals does nothing to keep the next generation safe.
–B. Christopher Agee
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom