Not Unfair to Teens

When the managers of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., recently imposed a weekend curfew, intended to keep large groups of unsupervised (and often troublesome) teens from gathering there after 6 p.m. Many young people called it unfair, saying everyone was being punished for the actions of a few.

When the principal of a suburban high school near Boston announced that all students would be required to sign a contract (cosigned by their parents) stipulating that they wouldn't attend school dances if they had been drinking and indicating they understood there would be serious consequences if they did, many of the students called it unfair, saying everyone was being punished for the actions of a few.

It's likely that many of the teens who spend their Saturday nights at the Mall of America are well-behaved, even without parental supervision. It's equally likely that many of the students at the suburban high school attend school dances sober, even without signing a contract.

But the Mall of America managers have an obligation to keep the mall safe and enjoyable for everyone. In the past, large groups of teens have become unruly, have fought, and have frightened other patrons. The new restrictions might be an inconvenience to the well-behaved and misbehaving alike. But for more people they'll be a benefit.

That's true, too, for the high school students. They may see the contract as an invasion of their rights, but they don't have the right to be drinking. And for those who would come to a dance sober anyway, the contract shouldn't make a difference.

There's no way to target only certain groups of people and say "you must sign this" or "you must be accompanied by a parent," while leaving others on their honor to behave well without such rules.

Rules and codes of conduct have to apply to everyone, whether it's juvenile or adult behavior that's being regulated. There's nothing unfair about that.

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