There are so many things wrong with this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Utah District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen told the mom of a 13-year-old girl to cut off her ponytail in court “right now” using courtroom scissors in order for the girl to have her sentence reduced by 150 hours after she chopped off a toddler’s long locks in a McDonald’s, according to Fox News (via the Deseret News).
The mother, Valerie Bruno, obliged.
OK, now it’s time to talk about all of the wrongness. And there’s a lot of it.
The girl, Kaytlen Lopan, befriended a 3-year-old girl in McDonald’s in Price, Utah. The little girl had hair down to the middle of the back because it had never before been cut. Kaytlen and an 11-year-old friend asked a McDonald’s employee for a pair of scissors, and when they were denied, they left to buy one at a dollar store, returned, and cut off the little girl’s hair.
Where was the 3-year-old’s parents or guardian while this was happening? Nothing happened in a split second if the girls “befriended” the toddler and then made two separate attempts to obtain scissors. Who was watching her and how in the world did they let her out of their sight for even a moment so anything could happen, never mind the encounter with Sweeney Todd’s younger, more evil cousin?
Second, Kaytlen was looking 30 days in detention, 276 hours of community service and a restitution payment as punishment for chopping off the girl’s hair. If I were her mom, I would have let her take the sentence in full. And if a judge offered a remedy as absurd as cutting off my own daughter’s hair (“Take it off clear up to the rubber band,” were his exact instructions), I would have had him reported (which the mom has since done).
“She definitely needed to be punished for what had happened,” she told the Deseret News. “But I never dreamt it would be that much of a punishment.”
When you’re in court and it’s a case involving your kid, maybe take a moment next time before getting a good grip on the scissors and thinking about what’s in the best interest of your daughter, not what will please the judge. Courtrooms can be scary and intimidating, but the psyche of a teenage girl, delinquent or not, is fragile. Consult an attorney. Stall. Do something. But cut off your daughter’s hair because you’re nervous? Really?
The mom of the 3-year-old girl, Mindy Moss, was consulted by the judge about the punishment and nudged the judge to have Kaytlen’s hair cut even shorter after the first go-round with the scissors. Again — she was where, exactly, when the incident in McDonald’s happened in the first place?
As for the judge, an eye for an eye is really the best way for a 13-year-old to learn right from wrong?
According to the Deseret News, the judicial branch of the Utah State Courts had this to say about the incident:
The Utah Code states that juvenile court should use sanctions that will ‘promote guidance and control’ and prevent ‘future unlawful conduct’ and develop ‘responsible citizenship. Judges are given discretion in coming up with sanctions for youth that will change their behavior in a positive way.
This wasn’t Kaytlen’s first time in trouble. In a separate case, she had made phones calls to a Colorado teen over a period of 8 months that included “threats of rape and mutilation.”
Clearly Kaytlen is a sick girl who needs help. Correction: She needed help. Surely having her ponytail chopped off in court changed her behavior in a positive way, right, Judge Johansen?
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