Sunday, September 25, 2011

14-Year-Old Gone Wild Stabbing 37 Classmates

A 14-year-old girl from Jose de Choudens middle school in Puerto Rico went on a playground holding a syringe, stabbing 37 classmates from 12-to-14-years-old. According to the Education Secretary Jesus Rivera Sanchez's testimony, she described the girls behavior as " [the girl] would stab one, run, stab another, run, like it was some sort of joke". The Health Department said that the they were not sure the syringe was contaminated; but the 37 victims were gathered at a convention center to be examined for HIV and hepatitis C supplied with preventive medications.

Based on the Justice Department spokesman Fidel Rodrigruez, no charges had yet been filed because her motives were not clear, however, judges decided she had been suspended from school due to her lack of honesty to the police officers. When the officers were asking the girl how she managed to obtain the syringe, she said she found it; but soon after, she changed her speech and told the investigators that she stole an unused needle from a relative's hospital to have her ears pierced.

The Puerto Rican Justice Department officials has recently been debating whether there should be charges against the girl's inappropriate actions. As one of the social workers tried to determine a motive, he said that it was not clear why she attacked her classmates. In the parent's perspective, they would argue that the girl should receive more than just a suspension from the school. It would only seem logical that a murderer were to be kept in a juvenile prison until all 37 victims receives a negative test result. However, according to the CRIN (Child Rights information Network) in Puerto Rico, there are neither any Regional Laws nor any National Laws in the database relating to this country. This being said, do the judges put charges on the girl based on adult laws, which could possibly result in heavier charges? Now, looking at the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child), one of the laws for Children Rights states"Safe exposure/access to leisure, play culture, and art"; those who violate the CRC in a lighter degree usually receives a fine or imprisonment for not to exceed 10 days. However, recognizing the vulnerability of children, one might say that children rights should be dealt with special attention; in other words, suspension is more than enough to serve as a punishment for the girl.

In addition to the issue of children rights, the definition for "children" is a matter of debate. According to the US Law, it sates that " A child is any human being below the age of eighteen years", however, according to Cornell University, the term "child" doesn't exist within a range; basically, there is no exact definition to explain the term "youth, teenager, or adolescent" because it is almost impossible to measure one's maturity level with a standardized test. But if the definition of children is not established, how is fair to charge the girl?

In my opinion, the girl has received the punishment she deserves, nothing more than that should be charged on her. First, the girl does not understand the danger involved in a syringe, therefore, she has no intentions of harming her classmates on purpose. Second, in the article, they only reported that she stabbed 37 kids, but have they considered that the girl might have stabbed herself accidentally? And if she did, wouldn't she become a victim as well? Third, the girl shouldn't take full responsibility of this entire action. Since the rampage happened at school, where were the supervisors? Shouldn't the supervisors take partial responsibility of this?

Besides the issue of children rights, there are many other issues that are related to that matter, for instance, minimum driving age. Because the known minimum driving age isn't standardized in each country, the consequences for illegal driving are different. Similarly, when the definition of children is diversified, the degree of charges set on one is relatively difficult to decide.


  1. An article like this isn’t all that uncommon. There has been many instances in the past where the issue of age and subsequent, punishment has come into public attention. Like you said, the main issue here is the semantics of the language used. At what age would one be considered an adult, and therefore, become applicable to the full extent of adult laws? According to the US law, “a child is any human being below the age of eighteen years.” In this case, the line of distinction between adult and child is merely by age, and so the girl is technically, free of charge. Eighteen years of age is used to separate adulthood and childhood in that it is believed to be the standard for the age of maturation. However, since everyone is different, I believe that there cannot be a standard year for the coming of age. The difference between an adult and child is the level of maturity, and capacity of spatial reasoning in discerning whether or not his or her actions are just. Therefore, ideally, the line of distinction between child and adult should be by level of maturity via a maturity test. Though this is not ecologically valid in that a maturity test has to make a distinction in what being mature and not being mature is.

    As you can see, this issue has many holes yet to be filled up. Many questions arise from just the semantics. If we do not decide what the meaning is behind the linguistic usage, we can never be able to give punishment without heavy opposition. This is an interesting article in that there are no Regional Laws or National Laws concerning underage criminal acts. If a country were to create a clear distinction between adulthood and childhood, it would be Puerto Rico, because creating something new, is easier than stripping down the old, and replacing it. I myself think that the girl should be stabbed herself to learn what it feels like, and so directly learn that her actions are not a joke, and can and will cause great pain.

  2. The main issue being debated here is that if a person can be held responsible for a wrongdoing if his or her mental state is in question. My way of phrasing this does not suggest that children are mentally disabled, but that they might not have fully developed a set of morals or ethics and cannot tell right from wrong. This connects to the issue of whether or not sick people can be held responsible for crimes, such as a psychopath killing a man. Children (as morbid as it may sound) have some similarities between psychopaths as they often cannot tell apart from right or wrong because nobody has educated them about that one particular thing before. In this case, I doubt that anybody ever told the child specifically that it is not good to run around stabbing people with a syringe. It can be argued that Jose didn't know that it was bad, so therefore she should not be held guilty. Now consider the same situation if Jose was a 35 year old psychopath. Psychopath Jose would not be given this benefit of the doubt as easily as child Jose although they have similar mental capacities. The issue of how big should the mental capability of a person play a role in the decision of whether or not that person is responsible or not responsible of that wrongdoing.

  3. I think that you made many compelling arguments about the topic, one of the most prominent ones being how maturity level can be measured. In my opinion, I feel that a fourteen year old should be able to determine what is dangerous and what is not dangerous, because of what is learned in elementary school. Therefore, I think that she is guilty for intentional harm inflicted upon others. However, I do not believe that she can be punished the same way as adults are, because she may not be completely sure of what she’s doing and what the consequences may be.
    Instead of simply suspending her from school, I think that they need to take a look at her psychological state, because what she has done is far from what a normal fourteen year old child should do. As children, we are all told by our parents to avoid sharp objects, as they have the capacity to harm us, therefore, this girl should know what kind of pain she would inflict on her fellow classmates. I think that this girl should be suspended from school, but moreover, she should be required to attend as many therapy sessions it takes to stabilize her mental state.

  4. I agree with the argument you proposed pertaining to the definition of "children". I think the problem is that it is impossible and arguable to draw a line between the definition of a child and an adult, therefore it is hard to come up with a punishment that is right and suitable for Jose. Why is that 17 is considered underage whereas 18 is considered legal? Does that one year difference really set apart the levels of maturity? In my opinion, I would say that Jose is still a child and that a punishment of suspension and therapy sessions would be sufficient. It is understandable that a child of her age doesn’t know the danger that involves in stabbing others with a syringe. From personal experience, I think a 14 year old is still developing and broadening their knowledge and ability to make right decisions, for I remember when I was around Jose's age, many of my classmates, including myself, have made bad decisions as well, therefore Jose should be given the chance to learn from her mistake too. Another argument is that If stabbing others with a syringe would lead to such serious consequences, shouldn’t others of her age who commits wrongdoings such as fighting or stealing also be given such punishments? Also, is it Jose's fault for getting hold of a syringe? Personally, apart from Jose taking responsibility of her actions, I think the school should also hold responsibility for not being careful enough and giving her access to a syringe, since a school should be providing its students a healthy and safe learning environment.

  5. Personally, I do not think a simple act of "suspending" the child would do for this case. Stabbing 37 young kids and potentially jeopardizing their lives deserves harsher punishment than getting suspended from school. With that being said, however, I understand why you think the punishment placed on her right now is good enough. What is being a children? Besides being able to go to Wonderland with Peter Pan, the line is definitely very vague. While some say that being 18 means getting mature, personally I do not see all the people who's over 18 being mature right after their 18th birthday. I believe the punishment for the girl should be more severe. I would want it to be severe especially if my children gets stabbed and his/her life is in jeopardy. I think instead of focusing the entire blog post on the incident, you could explore more on area 4.

  6. This article reminds me of the other article we saw earlier in the year, the one about the four year old girl striking an old lady while riding a bicycle. The debate is the same for that incident as it is for this, are children capable of analyzing a situation, and if capable of analyzing a situation, acting according to the conclusion of their analysis? Also, your conclusions also are extremely similar to the arguments in the article about the four year old; should the child be responsible for her actions, or should the adults that are supposed to watch over her be sued for negligence.
    This article also got me thinking of the way the government determines what children can and cannot do. Since there are no standardized test, the age range for being a child is different for everybody, therefore I don't think that the standard age-limiting substances should be made; everyone matures at a different age. What I'm referring to are the age limitations to driving a car, watching R-rated movies, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. Since everyone have different age range for being a children, is it fair to put a age limitation to certain activities and substances?

  7. Although it’s impossible to measure one’s maturity level with a standardized test, knowledge of brain development may help to determine maturity. By 14 years of age, has the brain developed enough for reasoning? According to research, “during adolescence, the brain begins its final stages of maturation and continues to rapidly develop well into a person’s early 20s, concluding around the age of 25.” As a result, “adolescents must rely heavily on the parts of the brain that house the emotional centers when making decisions, because the frontal regions of their brains are not fully developed”. In this way, the biological area of knowledge used to provide insight into the matter.

    Also, within the blog post, you state that the girl did not have any intentions of harming her classmates on purpose. What evidence is there of this? Is this simply because she is not deemed as mature enough? But if that’s the case, can’t people without certain levels of maturity still intend to harm others? Also, even if the girl does not have the intent to harm, isn’t she still guilty of the actions she takes? This issue is brought up in another news article, as “A 15-year-old boy has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 32-yearold police officer who was dragged while conducting a routine traffic stop”. “Under recent changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, killing a police officer with or without intent results in an automatic first-degree murder charge.” With or without intention, the boy is still convicted as guilty of murder of the first-degree. Here, maturity and intentions are not factored in at all. If thisis the case, then shouldn’t the girl be accounted for as guilty as well?


  8. Personally I have to disagree with your comment that the punishment she got was enough. 14 years of age would make her a freshman in high school, which she should have enough knowledge to know that stabbing people sporadically could be potentially harmful. But then again although that might apply to most freshmen in high school, it might not apply to her. I think the consequences shouldn't be so different from the consequences she'll get if she were an adult, especially if the test results come back to be positive. If she only gets suspended it won't be memorable enough for her to really rethink about what she has done according to associative learning. If a harsher punishment is applied it would have a bigger effect as a warning that she shouldn't do it in the future.
    For relating this to real life issues, you could maybe talk about incidents when a kid pull the chair away when another kid is about to sit down, causing the kid about to sit down to be paralyzed for the rest of his life. The consequence was harsh and immediate, even though not applied to himself.