Written by: Claudia Gilburd, Founder/CEO of Teen Law School, Inc.
© 2011 Teen Law School, Inc.

Many of you will remember the snarky comment made by a Texas dispatcher a few years ago when a mom called 911 because she couldn’t stop her daughters from fighting:  “What do you want us to do, ma’am, come over and shoot her?” That retort made the national news and the dispatcher issued a hasty apology for his insolent behavior, but the story dusted up fierce debate all across the country.  When, if ever, is it appropriate to call police to restore domestic order?  When is an out of control child a danger to himself or others?  Why are so many parents afraid of disciplining their own children?  Who really suffers when police are called because parents can’t exercise sufficient authority in their families?

The debate still rages because these questions are difficult to answer.  Each situation is unique, and every situation of the kind is electrified by the high tension wires of anger and fear.  Few decisions made in moments like these can withstand the 20/20 review of hindsight, so it is important for parents and guardians to think in advance of a heated confrontation with their children about ways to dispel the danger in the conflict without the help of law enforcement. 

As we travel around the state conducting Teen Law School seminars for first-time juvenile offenders, we are noticing an increasing number of juveniles who have been arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or even domestic violence as a result of family disputes. The sadness that results for kids and parents alike is almost palpable, but it’s the evidence trail that such experiences leave that is truly tragic.   The youngsters we see have been given a chance to keep the incidences of their arrests off their public records by undergoing our diversion programming, but the record of their being arrested and confessing to their charges will always be visible to law enforcement, even for the rest of their lives.  Could their parents have handled their situations differently?  Could their families have spared themselves the serious emotional, financial, social and legal consequences of saddling their children with a juvenile record?

The bottom line is that when police are called to a home in distress, they are prepared to find anything and everything.  Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous calls police receive precisely because they are so emotionally charged.  Law enforcement officials expect that the individuals involved in a domestic disturbance call have tried everything to calm the situation to no avail.  It is not surprising then, that domestic violence calls almost always result in someone being removed from the home and being placed under arrest.  Even kids.

Of course, if ever a situation arises in your home where violence or the threat of imminent physical harm is made to you or another in your care, you may have no choice but to call for help.   But in cases where some time, some emotional restraint, some silence, some separation of the parties and some common sense can prevail, the dependence upon other kinds of help can work to the whole family’s advantage.  Family therapists, ministers, crisis hot lines and other counseling resources are widely available at all price points and on sliding scales to help restore order and harmony in any family.   For more information about resources in your neighborhood, please visit http://www.jfcsaz.org/site/c.ajIQK6NMLfJ0E/b.6490117/k.2397/Counseling.htm.  For more information about Teen Law School and its workshops for teens and parents, please visit www.teenlawschool.com  or call 480-584-3692.


Your Family and the Law is written by Claudia Gilburd, Founder of Teen Law School, Inc., for the clients and friends of Davis Miles Law Firm.  Claudia is not an attorney, but works closely with attorneys in her organization. Davis Miles attorneys are always ready to help your family navigate the legal issues you might face and defend your rights and best interests through them all.