Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008 | 6 a.m.
More than 950 students from 45 high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 52nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to write for Class Magazine about the students' findings.
Once again Clark County's brightest students have come together at the annual Sun Youth Forum to discuss many pertinent issues pertaining to the society we live in today. Though many controversial topics were debated at the forum with widespread opinion on each, the students stepped up to the plate, disclosing not only how they felt about the issues but also what they felt were viable solutions.
As to be expected, the students of the forum were torn when it came to the topic of illegal immigration. Some felt it was a major problem that's causing strain on America's economy (because illegal immigrants do not pay taxes) and also on America's culture (because illegal immigrants often do not assimilate to American ways).
Still, others felt that on the opposite side of the coin, illegal immigrants help America's economy by taking low-paying jobs that other citizens find undesirable. However, no matter what stance was taken on the subject, all students agreed that mass deportation was not a viable solution. Instead, they wanted to focus on keeping more illegal immigrants out instead of focusing on deporting the ones already here. Students also expressed a desire to make it possible for illegal aliens to gain citizenship (as well as make citizenship easier to gain, thus minimizing the problem).
As expected once again, there was a large schism of opinion between the students discussing the death penalty. Those who were "for it" expressed no a moral sense of justice, but instead a concern about the high costs of keeping a prisoner incarcerated in life, and also a concern about the cost required to build new prisons to prevent overcrowding. They felt the money used to jail offenders worth of capital punishment could be put to better use, such as improving America's education system.
Those against capital punishment, however, did oppose it because they felt it to be immoral, and raised many concerns about the legitimacy of a human deciding another human's fate.
Minimum and Maximum Sentence Limits
Another topic pertaining to our criminal justice system that was debated at the forum was that of mandated sentence limits (e.g., a sentence of no less than 10 years and not exceeding 25 years for manslaughter). Many students felt this was the only way to insure fair sentencing because it eliminated room biased participants to completely determine an offender's sentence.
However, the majority of students felt that cases should be sentenced on a case-to-case basis because each circumstance is different. Those opposing also felt that by imposing sentence limits the legislature was overstepping its bounds and that sentencing should ultimately be left to the discretion of the judge and the jury.
The vast difference of students opinions regarding whether or not it should be legal to carry concealed weapons was not surprising. Those who were for the legality of concealed weapons made reference to their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. They also felt it was their right out of need to protect one's self -- an important need in today's increasingly dangerous society.
However, those against the legality of concealed weapons used an argument that pivoted off this point: society wouldn't be so dangerous if it wasn't so easy to get one's hands on a gun. No matter what the stance, though, the students nearly unanimously agreed that teachers absolutely should not be allowed to carry concealed weapons at school; they believed such weapons would be more of a hazard than a safety. There was great concern expressed about how easy it would be for distraught student to get his or her hand on a gun if they were present in every classroom, and also concern expressed about how trustworthy a teacher would be with a gun at his or her side. This idea evoked fear and distress in all the students present.
Many of the students present expressed strong opinions pertaining to how juvenile crime is handled in our society. Surprisingly, it was not that they felt juveniles are necessarily handled too harshly or too softly but that they are handled with a reactive approach rather than a proactive approach.
The students mostly agreed that they felt it would be best for more rehabilitative programs to be offered for juvenile offenders rather than penitential programs. They felt harsh punishment does nothing to rehabilitate juvenile offenders who are still extremely capable of change.
Most students believed that there aren't enough options for recreational activity for today's youth, and that by creating more options crime rates would be curbed. They also expressed the idea that counseling is better and more important route than jail time.
However, there was some discrepancy in opinions concerning whether or not juveniles should be tried as adults fr harsh crimes such as murder and rape. For the most part, the consensus was that the decision should be based on a judge's discretion about their level of emotional and social maturity.
Texting and Driving
Teen drivers today are typically painted as dangerous drivers with no sense who do not hesitate to text behind the wheel. Contrary to this opinion, however, all of the students at the forum expressed a strong distaste for this practice. Although they felt that illegalizing cell phones on the road would be too strong a measure, they hoped that their fellow teens would "get real" and realize that it's only common sense that one shouldn't text and drive at the same time, and that it's far too dangerous to partake in such activities.
Sawyer is a senior at Spring Valley High School whose group covered the topic of Law and Crime.