From the Press-Telegram:
Tough love or too tough?
Dad punishes son for vandalism by making him advertise his offense
By Pamela Hale-Burns, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/16/2008 09:33:49 PM PST
With his father keeping an eye on him, Dennis Baltimore Jr. walks along Cherry Avenue at Willow wearing the sign advertising his vandalism at Wilson High School. The teen must also perform chores at the school during the winter break. (Scott Smeltzer/Staff Photographer)Cruel and unusual punishment or just good, old-fashioned discipline?
Dennis Baltimore Jr. was caught vandalizing school property at Long Beach's Wilson Classical High School.
He was sentenced by his dad to walk the streets of Long Beach and Signal Hill on Tuesday for five hours in two locations wearing a sign saying, "I am a juvenile delinquent who should be punished. I have wasted your tax money with dumb acts of vandalism in the public schools."
When Dennis Baltimore Sr.'s phone rang Monday, he didn't know the call from his son's school would cost $875, the price of the vandalism.
"In a time of this uncertain economy, I'm sure the public is not going to like it," he said. "So one way I am going to discipline him is to have him walking around with a sign stating his crime."
Baltimore Sr., who works in the engineering department of DirecTV, moved to California a few years ago from Washington, D.C., where he worked for CNN and Fox News. He has a three-day assignment to do video for Fox News for the presidential inauguration in January.
The father got the sign idea from a news story of an unemployed man in New York who recently advertised his resume on a board and walked the streets in search of a job.
"I didn't come up with this idea myself. I want to thank the guy in New York," he said. "When I saw that, I went to the store, bought the supplies and made the sign."
According to his dad, the 10 th-grader was trying to get attention when he painted graffiti of a fictitious gang on school property.
"I was thinking about being a gangbanger, but once I saw what the punishment was, I was like, no," Baltimore Jr. said.
The 16-year-old also cringed from the attention his punishment drew as onlookers laughed, pointed and took pictures while reading the sign.
"I want him to feel all of those things because I want him to always question himself before he makes a decision," his father said. "You have to make conscious decisions. He's a good son; he just made a bad decision, and he has to pay for it."
Baltimore Sr. encourages other parents to take the steps to make a positive difference in their children's lives.
"I'm a concerned parent. I'm frustrated, and I'm sure I'm not alone," he said. "I'm sure there are some other parents who want to take actions like this and I encourage them to do it."
The father knows there will be those who will disagree with the discipline, but he feels that it will change his son's view of responsibility.
"I'm doing what I have to do to make him a man. That's my job," he said. "This is nothing compared to what could happen to him. He could get shot in the streets for something he thinks is minor."
"It's not harsh; I think it's pretty decent," said Ted Ybarra. "It's a way of disciplining him, for him to be embarrassed and show people what he did wrong."
Baltimore Jr. was suspended for four days, and as part of the school's punishment, he will spend several days of his holiday vacation doing community service at Wilson. He will be painting over graffiti and doing other chores assigned by the school.
"He has to understand that there are consequences and reactions," his father said. "This is a negative reaction."
Another passerby, Adrian Paxton - released from prison in October - believes the punishment will help keep the younger Baltimore out of even worse trouble.
"He won't want to do that again," he said. "And it's better than his dad putting his hands on him and beating him."
Something as simple as a father's involvement could make a major difference in a child's life, Paxton said.
"If my dad had did something like that to me when I was doing my thing, it probably would have helped me," he said.
Spectators' responses helped drive home the father's point.
"He looked embarrassed," said Briana McCoy. "I think he's learned his lesson."
And they just may be right.
"Right now I feel dumb and I regret everything I've done," Baltimore Jr. said. "I know my little sister is going to follow me and I'm going to tell her no."
"I want him to realize this is a crime and he had to answer to that," Baltimore Sr. said. "I want kids to know that what they do, even if they think it's small, there are consequences. This is a felony crime in California."
Although it wasn't his first time vandalizing, the teen said it will definitely be his last.
"I'm really mad, confused and I feel dumb at the same time, but I understand what my dad is saying," he said. "I know he wants me to learn how to be a man and step up to my mistakes and learn by being punished. I did it, but I'm going to do better now. It's not worth it.
This is nothing but good, OLD SCHOOL parenting.
If the son was so bad and 'tough', then be ' tough' walking around, telling folks what you did.
This is about SHAME. SHAME worked a great deal ' back in the day'.
This young man is lucky he has a father that cares.