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March 9, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? The push for answers at West Parish

It’s always difficult to pursue stories that involve wrongdoing on the part of juveniles, identified in Massachusetts as youths age 17 or younger.

Courts generally provide young people with protection from public information statutes, essentially meaning that their names are redacted from police reports and that their court reports are not released to the public. And that’s understandable, given that mistakes made by kids can sometimes tarnish their records for life — especially in today’s age of Google, Facebook and other social media.

But many such cases warrant news coverage — whether a loss of perhaps a start player or several players from a high school sports team after a teen drinking incident costs a team a few games or even a championship, or perhaps a more serious case in which an underage driver is involved in a serious car crash that threatens or even takes the life of someone else. And then there are the cases that seem to almost chart new reporting ground — like the current Gloucester Police and district attorney’s probe into an incident last week that led to the abrupt shutdown of the after-school program at West Parish School.

By virtually all counts, this isn’t merely a case involving juveniles – it’s one revolving exclusively around the apparent actions of elementary school students, likely meaning kids ages 10, 11 and/or 12.

To date, of course, we still don’t know what led to the investigation, which, according to both Superintendent Richard Safier and Police Chief Leonard Campanello, has largely focused on the program’s lack of supervision. That point has already been driven home by Safier, who announced that the Cape Ann YMCA will be taking over the program and that YMCA staffers, not the program’s previous three supervisors and a substitute, will be running the show.

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