While vandalism is never acceptable, this district seems to have blown things all out of proportion.
Teenagers Parker Niles and Devon Barkema, are facing very serious criminal charges after they were caught pulling bits of bark off an old tree.
The boys and their friends were hanging out in a park near their school, when Parker pulled at a bit of bark that was falling of the tree. The rest followed suit and started pulling at the loose bark.
A neighbour saw the boys vandalising the tree and called the police. When the boys admitted to damaging the tree they were arrested and charged with a Class D felony – a serious crime with a five year sentence for adults.
Parker’s mum Naomi Wells is in shock. “There’s nothing worse than seeing my 13-year-old son turn right, left and front as his mug shot is taken,” she said.
Naomi is terrified that a felony conviction could ruin her son’s life, making future employment difficult. “My heart is hurting for my son,” she said. “I don’t believe it had to go to this extreme.”
Naomi told reporters her son knows not to break windows or graffiti or the more common forms of vandalism, but he hadn’t realised that removing bark can kill a tree, and that it was someone’s property.
“I guess as a parent, I should be at fault for not teaching him that pulling bark off a tree will kill it,” she said. “I made sure to cover sex, drugs, drinking, responsibility, honesty and God, but trees, that one slipped my mind.”
Part of the reason for the seriousness of the charge is the police claim that the tree will cost over $1100 to replace. Naomi however claims she contacted a tree services company herself who offered to do it for less than $500, making the crime a misdemeanour, not a felony.
The boy’s mum is very angry that the school district has been so quick to jump to charges rather than attempting to work things out, claiming they are refusing to return her calls.
“I’m very willing to work with the school,” Wells said. “It’s just really frustrating when you’re trying to help your kid out but you can’t fight the battle because no one is willing to listen or give you a chance.”