At first it seemed like just another “here we go again” scenario. 

The Longley School, a perennial target of vandals and jackanapes, had been trashed one more time. 

Desks overturned and thrown about. Bathrooms destroyed in ways that only rampaging youths can manage. School equipment damaged or destroyed, hallways trashed, serving areas hit as though by a tornado. 

Nobody needs me to describe the damage in any great detail. We’ve all been here before. Longley was targeted by a similar band of young vandals just a year earlier, after all, and that particular mess stayed in the news cycle a long while. 

When news of the latest vandalism spree started to get around, the furor landed in its usual place: on social media, where the same criticisms and accusations were flung around before the dust had settled and details had a chance to emerge. 

“Children today have no supervision and are allowed to do as they please!” wrote one unhappy local. 

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“Geesh, parents,” raged another. “Take control of your children!” 

The default position in these situations seems to be to blame the parents of the young hooligans right out of the gate. Often those criticisms are warranted — how many times have we seen news of young fry doing horrible things while their parents remain indifferent or defiant — if those parents happen to be in the picture at all? 

But ah, what’s this? In the wake of the latest mess at Longley, this familiar story of kids gone wild has presented us with a welcome twist; in particular, a pair of parents who stepped up and took responsibility even as legions were winding up to criticize them. 

“I’m a parent of two of the individuals involved,” wrote a young mother named Amber, “and the post should have included that all of us parents have taken full responsibility.” 

It was true, as it turned out. The parents had come forth without prodding, a turn of events most people in the Lewiston Rocks Facebook thread didn’t see coming. Typically in these sordid affairs, the parents are nowhere to be found and so random Facebook users are free to make all sorts of claims about them. 

But here we had one parent who wasn’t just acknowledging the actions of her kids, she had called the police herself, and now she was taking appropriate steps to administer discipline in the matter. In fact, what she wanted to do in the beginning was to drag her kids back over to Longley and make them clean up the mess they had made. 

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That didn’t work out, but none of the parents involved in this sad fiasco tried to hide from public view, nor did they shirk their parental duties. They spoke with police at length to assist in the investigation. They agreed that punishments were necessary and began planning for them. And they faced red-hot criticism, openly and with courage, in the kangaroo court that is Facebook.  They were honest and humble and forthcoming about the terrible things their children had done. They had as many questions about the ugly affair as everyone else. 

“I would never have thought my kids were capable of doing something like this,” wrote the first parent. “The detective told me kids will be kids and not to feel too bad about it because as parents we can only do so much, but of course we are beating ourselves up over it. We are doing what we can.” 

Another mother to some of the culprits chimed in to point out that these kids, between 8 and 12 years old, were not acting out, as some do, because they have horrible home lives. 

“They’re all happy kids living pretty decent lives,” this mother wrote, “but we struggle like everyone else. This is a first these children have ever done this and we’re working to figure out where it began and why they made the decisions they did, but one step at a time.” 

It was all so strange. This was not the usual line of discourse typically seen in angry Facebook threads where sanctimony and virtue signaling can be found behind every other comment. As a result of insights provided by these parents, the people engaged in this vigorous discussion started to get a clearer picture of what had happened Saturday night at the Longley School. Acrimony, in some instances, turned to sympathy and understanding. The parents began getting support instead of full-throated criticism. 

“People are so quick to judge parents and the kids and how they are raised,” one woman wrote. “I’m not at all saying what they did was right at all, but give people a break. They owned their s*** and are now suffering the consequences.” 

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“Stop bashing these mothers when you don’t know the situation,” offered another. “Any day your children could be the next child to vandalize something and you wouldn’t think your child could do something like that.” 

It was like Opposite Day on Facebook. 

Of course, the contrition of the parents did not completely eliminate the vitriol to be found in the Facebook thread. Some commenters accused the parents of whitewashing the sordid affair by employing a “kids-will-be-kids” philosophy. Others demanded to know why children that young were free and unsupervised long enough to sneak into a school and cause such wholesale damage in the first place. 

Valid questions for sure, and the parents offered what explanations they cold — one of them appeared to have fallen for the ol’ sleepover trick kids have been using for eons — but at some point, these parents could not prostrate themselves any further just to appease the mob. 

“My kids are good kids and I’m an amazing mom,” one mom wrote as the conversation ground on. “No stranger on the internet can convince me different.” 

With the ne’er-do-wells caught and the parents taking full responsibility, the discourse in that Facebook thread kind of fluttered and spun off into different directions by necessity. The matter of corporal punishment was discussed, with some in favor of sparing the rod and others ready to bring the rod back to its full potential. 

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Others refused to let the conversation drop because they had more parenting advice to dole out — these folks were perfect angels themselves as children, apparently, and their kids are perfect angels now. 

At least a few, though, suggested that maybe it was time to put judgment away and let the legal system take over, for better or worse. 

One Lewiston woman, a young mother herself, summed it up nicely. 

“The parents already took responsibility,” she wrote. “They even offered to clean up the mess. They are willing to pay for their kids’ mistake. Their kid is being reprimanded. So why keep sitting here s***ting on the parents? How was that gonna make the situation any better? When somebody takes accountability for their mistakes, you don’t keep punishing them for their mistakes.” 

In other words, this one is over, but fret not. I’m pretty sure we won’t have to wait very long for the next big thing to come along and get us mad all over again. 

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