From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
The title of this article could very well be “Anatomy of Context and Hysteria.”
Approximately two weeks ago, I was asked to run for Village
of Lawrence Trustee. I was interviewed by the Lawrence Association, which subsequently endorsed me. I was interviewed by the Nassau Herald and I mentioned that among many other issues that concerned me was quality of life and safety for our children. I mentioned that to ensure maximum safety for our youth, parents should always be aware of their young children’s whereabouts and that cell-phone contact is a good idea when the hour gets late.
I mentioned that one good idea would be for parents to have a curfew for their children and it should depend on the child’s age and the time of night (or morning). And by a curfew I meant an agreement that there would be an expected time to be home and that if that time arrived and the child was not home, contact between child and parent would be made. Somehow the story became that Seidemann wants a curfew in the village of Lawrence enforced by the police and goon squads. Nonsense. I said nothing of the sort and meant nothing of the sort.
I did not say, “police- or village-enforced curfew,” I did not list any ages, I did not list any times. Those decisions should be left up to each family.
At least the Herald had the sense to list that idea in the body of the article amongst many other initiatives and ideas. The Herald maintained context because they actually spoke to me and knew I did not mean a police-enforced or village-enforced curfew.
Other news sources were not as careful. They did not reach out to me. One actually headlined their report that I was calling for a curfew. People really should spend more time reading the particulars of what is said and not said before reporting in a fashion that whips the populace into a frenzy and mischaracterizes positions. The report that I called for a curfew is patently false.
So rest assured, young people. Your Saturday nights on Central Avenue are still yours to enjoy. I was responding to specific cases that I am aware of where parents had no idea where their children were and the children were the victims of mischief, not the perpetrators of mischief. I cannot imagine any parent not wanting to know that their children are safe. I cannot imagine any child not wanting to know that help is a phone call away.
This issue of “curfew” was never even discussed with the present village leadership, as I was not looking to have any legislation enacted. So with whom exactly did I discuss this issue and what was their response? I discussed this issue with the following well-known respected individuals, all of whom have years of experience with these types of family issues. I also discussed it with Lawrence residents and two teenagers at Gourmet Glatt.
The Lawrence resident was skeptical at the beginning, thinking I was calling for a police state. By the time I finished explaining what I meant, he was in favor.
The two teenagers at Gourmet Glatt were also in favor of the idea because they have a friend who was a victim of late-night/early-morning violence and he had no one to call for help.
And now the professionals. I first spoke with Rabbi Dovid Weinberger. He said I hit the nail on the head, that I identified a real issue, that I not only could use his name but should use his name in establishing some sort of initiative that a kid in trouble would have a number to call.
I then spoke with Rabbi Yaakov Bender. Again he said not only could I use his name but that I should use his name in furtherance of this initiative, some sort of program to keep children in touch with either their parent or a designated contact person if they are in trouble late at night. Not everyone wants to call their parent.
I then spoke with Rabbi Dov Silver from Madraigos. He knows firsthand of many stories where a teenager who started out with a group of friends on Central Avenue, with his parents’ knowledge, wound up with a different group of people in Manhattan. He is 100 percent in favor of a program that would have parents more involved in being there for teens that need someone to call—their parents or a friend’s parent—should the need arise.
Finally I spoke with the world-renowned Dr. David Pelcovitz, who agreed with me regarding the severity of the issue and my proposal. He said he would assist in this endeavor, and, like the others, said I should use his name in this article. He supports my idea unequivocally.
So here, finally, is my proposal of “curfew.” Curfew means a reminder that the hour is late. A reminder to the parents and a reminder to the teens. When a group of friends go out together on a Saturday night, let’s say a group of five, one of those parents should be the designated parent to be contacted if the children either get into trouble or have not returned by the time they said they would be back. I don’t know about you, but if my child says she will be back at midnight and it’s 12:45, I would begin to worry.
And if the children are uncomfortable calling one of the parents of the group, then someone else who agrees to serve as the person to be called, can be called.
Does anyone really believe this is a bad idea? I would love to go out with my wife to a movie where I won’t hear my cell phone, knowing that another parent of a child whom my daughter is with that night is “on duty” to field a call if my kid is in trouble or if they are late in returning home, later than they thought they would be.
Still not convinced that a concerted effort to have a parent be on call is a good idea? Because this is a family paper I will not share with you the details of what happened to one young girl who had no one to call. Her parents thought she was out with friends—and she was, initially. But she became separated from them and they were all home and asleep when she was convinced by someone she never met before to travel to Manhattan. There was no curfew in her house, so her parents didn’t expect her home at any specific time. And she did not have the relationship with her parents that made her feel she could ask them, “Hey, do you think I should go meet this guy in Manhattan who just texted me?” Something tells me her parents would have said “no.”
And what happened afterwards to this girl, who goes to school with your daughters, is a very sad story, one that I feel could have been avoided with one phone call.
So I will take all the ribbing, all the whispers, all the catcalls, all the misrepresentations of my point of view. But my daughters and their friends will be safe because they will know that if not me and their mother, they can always call their friends’ parents. And my kids and their friends will be safer because of this. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.