High-schoolers push back against curfew

by Chelsea Boone

The proposed youth curfew in Montgomery County, which will prohibit any person under 18 years old from being out after 11 p.m. on weekdays and after midnight on weekends, is being met with objection from some of the youth in Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Council held a youth town hall meeting on Oct. 13 which, according to the local ABC news affiliate, drew in over 100 teens from the area.
Melissa Cleary, a senior from Rockville High School addressed the council asking, “Why do they believe they have the right to override the constitution of the United States of America?”  She cited several court cases involving curfews similar to this one and said the courts ruled that a mandated curfew is an, “infringement upon a minor’s right to move about freely in public.”

Leah Muskin-Pierret from stopthecurfew.net, a webgroup dedicated to standing up against the proposed curfew, also spoke out against the curfew and called it, “a form of witch hunt.” She claims that the curfew has the same three three characteristics as a witch hunt, namely: paranoia, targeting a potentially innocent group with little power, and not solving the problem.

The memorandum introducing the curfew bill to the County Council states that there has been an increase in juvenile violence, juvenile gang activity and crime by minors across the county. The memo also states that, “minors are particularly susceptible, because of their lack of maturity and experience, to participate in unlawful and gang related activities and to be victims of crime.”

The county is obligated to protect minors, as well as the general public, says the memo, and in order to bolster parental control over jueveniles and reduce juevenile crime activities, they feel a mandated curfew is necessary.

The organizers of stopthecurfew.net came together because, “we thought someone had to,” said Abigail Burman, one of the organizers of the movement.

17-year-old Berman currently attends high school in Massachusetts but originally went to high school in Montgomery County.

“It’s a bill to target teenagers — a constituency that is often overlooked,” Burman said.  “We also thought it was an egregiously stupid bill that wouldn’t stop the problem.”

The Stop the Curfew website includes links to studies that demonstrate curfews do not reduce crime.  The website also cites information from the Montgomery County Department of Policeabout a decrease in overall crime —  as well as a study showing  juvenile crime takes place outside of the proposed curfew hours.

Long-time friends Burman and Muskin-Pierret were first joined by school friends and then began to use social media.

“That’s the power of the internet,” said Burman “We started a Facebook group and it multiplied outward from there.”

The group’s Facebook event page has over 6,000 members. The stop the curfew movement has gained coverage in many local area newspapers, radio stations, television stations and websites.

“We’ve gained a lot of support from the community,” said Burman,“ taking an issue that would have quietly passed, and turning it into more of a conversation.”

Some of the people and organizations listed on their website  as supporters are Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Youth Rights Association.

At first the youth group wasn’t sure they weren’t being taken seriously. ‘There were a few questions, because the adults weren’t sure we knew what were talking about, said Burman.  “But now –I think they have listened.”

While their group recognizes that all crime is bad, they do not think a youth curfew is the answer.

“Work with teenagers.  Work with the community.  Don’t just pass punitive legislation that won’t have a real affect,” Burman said.

The website lists ways to take action against the proposed legislation such as sending emails to county council members, writing letters to the editor of a local newspaper, spreading the word, meeting with council members and organizing a large group to attend the next town hall meeting on Nov. 2.

The county council is expected to vote on the legislation in November.

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