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YR in action – opposing a curfew

Written by Stefan Muller Dec 08, 2006

A few weeks ago, I posted a thread on the NYRA forums about a curfew in a village near me for the nights of October 30 and 31. However, unlike most curfews, this one takes effect at 7 PM and affects everyone under 19. In light of the blatant disregard for the rights of young people, this issue was taken on by my school’s new Youth Rights Club. I e-mailed the mayor of the village to get more information, and the club began simultaneously sending around a petition, which got almost 200 signatures. Not bad for three or four days.

We had a change of plans when the mayor graciously invited us to the November 27th meeting of the village’s board of trustees. Given almost an entire month more to prepare, we held off on submitting the petition and set about turning our hastily prepared petition cover letter into a well-researched, strong speech to give at the meeting. After three weeks of revisions and research on the text of the law (which included such youth rights friendly phrases as “suffer the presence of minors”) and the reasons for its enactment (which we never found out entirely during the meeting.

Finally, the day came. After sitting through at least an hour of exceedingly boring, small-town lawmaking (there was about half an hour of heated debate over restaurants distributing plastic forks with take-out), we were asked to speak. Seeing the extremely informal atmosphere at the meeting, we quickly re-worded our very formal speech as we talked. After we were finished, the mayor and one of the four trustees set about trying to tear apart our argument.

Both were very careful to say that they didn’t think the curfew was perfect, a step forward, but they said that in the eighteen years it has been law, there has never been Halloween vandalism within the village (how much there was before is still under debate.) After about 45 minutes of animated discussion, they told us to wrap it up (it was already 10:00 and some of us had physics tests the next day.) They weren’t convinced to repeal the law, but they told us that if we came back with either a compromise curfew or an alternate method to eliminate vandalism, they would consider it. The village attorney also informed us that the curfew was constitutional according to all legal precedents available when it was written (by him) in 1988, but asked us to let him know if we knew of any more recent precedents that might change this.

After much griping that lawmaking is their job and not ours, our club met and proposed a number of ideas, which we discussed and refined in a later meeting. As of the last meeting, several of our members are out writing the text of proposals or formal laws representing our suggestions.

I also did some research Monday night on legal precedents for curfews and discovered that there were indeed a number of new cases since 1988. I printed out two that seemed vary relevant because of the similarity between those curfews and this one. We looked over them at the meeting, and decided to drop them off at village hall as soon as possible so that they could look over them even before we have our suggestions.

To hopefully be continued…

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