So, the BooMan copped a plea today to ‘disorderly conduct’ and ‘trespassing’. It’s not a big deal…doesn’t go on my record, no fingerprinting, I wasn’t arrested. Just a couple of citations, kind of like a parking ticket. But the whole episode is kind of instructive about how messed up our school systems have become and, also, about the huge difference between urban and suburban justice.

The story starts last Christmas when CabinBoytheElder (CBtE) received a very nice present. It was a very unusual sweatshirt with a distinctive print pattern. He was very pleased with the gift. And he took it with him on a wilderness trip to Big Bend National Park in January. For four weeks he hiked back and forth through the park in this sweatshirt and it has the red dust stains to prove it. It might sound funny, but CBtE developed a kind of bond with this article of clothing. It symbolized all that he endured and accomplished on his trip.

Sometime in March he put it in a friends’ locker at school and it disappeared. He was very upset about it. Then, in April, some kid showed up to school wearing the same sweatshirt. CBtE went up to the kid and asked to take a look, and he could see the red stains and other signs of wear, and he knew it was his sweatshirt.

The kid claimed he had just bought it from some store (that doesn’t carry the sweatshirt).

This began a slow process, with the school contacting the thief’s parents, the parents allegedly confirming they bought the sweatshirt, the school saying it was a ‘he-said, she-said’ situation that they couldn’t resolve…etc.

And this kid continued to wear the sweatshirt to school. It was driving CBtE crazy so he went to the vice-principal Mr. Anthony S. Freeman and showed him photographs of CBtE wearing the sweatshirt. The vice-principal blew him off and told his mother that the thief was an upstanding citizen, while her kid…not so much.

I listened to these stories and I was getting tired of seeing CBtE so upset by this bully getting away with stealing his prized sweatshirt and just rubbing it in his face by wearing to school all the time. Last week he was wearing the damn thing in 80 degree weather just to make sure CBtE knew who was the alpha male in this relationship.

So, I told CBtE to tell me the next time the kid wore the sweatshirt and I would go talk to him. He called me. I went down. I walked up to the kid while he was out in front of the school. I unzipped and removed the sweatshirt, quite calmly, while explaining that he had to take it off because it didn’t belong to him. Then I left.

Now, this stupid punk thief decided to actually complain to the school administration about having his stolen property repossessed by its rightful owners. Mind you, the kid never claimed it was his sweatshirt when I took it back from him, and his parents promptly dropped the story that they had bought it for him. But that didn’t matter to the jackass principal Dr. Stephen Swymer. He wanted to expel CBtE and prosecute me for everything short of murder.

So, long story short, I have to go down and explain this all to the police. And here I am in this podunk suburban police station listening to this detective explain to me that I should have contacted them to investigate the great stolen sweatshirt caper of 2007. So, I tell the guy, “Sir, I am from Philadelphia, and if I went to the police there about something like this they would laugh at me and not so politely ask me to leave.” And the guy tells me that they have better things to do, too. And I explain that Philly has seen over 300 homicides this year, letting go the contradiction in telling me I should have contacted them even though they have better things to do.

Then this detective tells me that kids will be kids and they steal stuff all the time, and that if I pursue the theft that the thief’s parents can make my life difficult by charging me with harsher penalties.

Now, there’s more to this story, including that this wasn’t the first time this punk-kid stole something out of CBtE’s friend’s locker and the fact that he going around trying to recruit someone to batter CBtE (the police are following up on this latter problem).

Let’s be realistic, here were the real options. One, let this kid get away with stealing the sweatshirt and let him continue to shove it in CBtE’s face. Or, two, try to get the police department interested in a forensic investigation of a $60 sweatshirt, including, presumably, dirt analysis and an investigation of the stocking history of two different retail chains. Or, three, what I did.

But, the detective told me with a straight face that I should have been a responsible adult and pursued option two. Maybe that washes in the burbs, but it’s a bad joke to this city dweller.

Now, I understand the sensitivity people have about protecting kids and about a confrontation on school property. That’s why I copped to entering the school without permission and for essentially creating a disturbance.

The fines cost more than sweatshirt, but I don’t really care. This was the only way that CBtE was going to get the sweatshirt that he loves back. Now he has it. I’ll pay the fine.

As for this school? They really could care less whether they have a thief in their midst. After all, kids will be kids.

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