Mar 31, 2014
Dear Students, Faculty, Parents and Community of Mountain View High School;
As I’m sure you are all aware, there has been a spate of events over the past several weeks which have made our school and our city the focus of a lot of negative attention from the surrounding world and the media. You don’t have to look very far to find a plethora of mixed and contrasting reactions to these developments in our community; in social media, in local and national news outlets, and often in our own conversations. This is to be expected: people are curious, people are asking questions, and people are forming opinions based on the answers to these questions. However, due to the scarcity of reliable information with regards to these events, it seems that our desire for gossip has outweighed our desire for justice or for truth in matters that play an integral role in the futures of many of our peers. This needs to change.
Multiple persons have been arrested and/or questioned by the MVPD in regards to ongoing criminal investigations of a very serious nature. The actual size and scope of the crimes and the individuals involved is not clear. Many of the police’s suspects are minors. As a result, the MVPD is taking swaths of MVHS students who may have not been directly involved into questioning in an effort to narrow down the list of actual suspects. As of the time I am writing this, no one has been convicted or even tried for the felony crimes that everyone is buzzing about. In the United States of America, a person being tried for a crime is presumed innocent until it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty, regardless of their age, gender, race, or even the nature of the crime they are being accused of. This is not only a fundamental component in our Justice System because it tries to ensure an unbiased trial by evidence, but because it also seeks to shield the accused’s reputation and standing in the community pending an official ruling.
The task of finding and arraigning the people responsible in a just manner falls to the Mountain View Police, whom are more than capable. The task of anyone who may have found themselves involved in these incidents is to tell the truth, regardless of how bad the truth sounds. And for the majority of us, who are simply onlookers as this whole crapshoot unfolds, our task is to maintain the neutrality that the law promises the accused. Any individual, faced with the same situation these students face, would desperately want to be given the benefit of the doubt by the people they live and interact with. Instead, we smear their faces across all manners of social media and treat the whole ordeal like its a reality show. These people are not adults; they are at the brink of becoming them, and how we treat them over the next month will almost undoubtedly play a role in shaping the adults they will eventually become. If we ostracize them among our own circles before they are even determined to be guilty of anything, what possible reason could they have to believe that they could ever return to their old lives? Why would they want to?
In today’s world, information is both the most abundant and the most sought-after resource on the planet. Discernment of valuable information from a slew of red herrings, unrelated coincidences, and outright falsehoods is a discipline that few individuals have perfected. Luckily some of history’s greatest thinkers designed and are designing a meticulous process to do just that: the Legal System. By jumping to conclusions and assigning labels without a solid foundation of facts, we are quietly subverting the judicial process in favor of simplicity and closure. And although this all happens within the privacy of our own minds, our choice whether to be part of the problem or part of the solution has a very real impact on very real people. I choose not to take this responsibility lightly, and I encourage all of you treat it the same.
~Ethan Giles, Class of 2014