Youth are people too

By Lindsey Coley

For most of you, tomorrow will go unmarked just like most any other day. You will go about your normal business you do every other day. But perhaps you will do something unexpected. You will help someone, protect someone and fight for someone.

Tomorrow, April 14, marks the day where everyone of any age can make a stand and fight for youth rights, where anyone can show their support for the youth rights movement. April 14, 2010 is the very first National Youth Rights Day.

What are youth rights? It is the radical notion that the Constitution does not have an age limit on citizenship, as is stated in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. The youth rights movement seeks to lessen, if not eliminate, unnecessary, unconstitutional and otherwise discriminatory restrictions on the rights of youth that are granted to them in the Constitution without regard to age.

The United States is called the “Land of the Free” and the “Home of the Brave,” however, since its inception, the United States has summarily, strategically and intentionally violated the rights of youth. The United States has allowed the false imprisonment of youth in so-called “Behavior Modification Camps” without charge and without trial. This has gone on for decades where many youth have expressed anecdotally that there has been abuse, rape, torture and even murder. Again, there are stories of youth in these camps being forced to abuse their fellow prisoners.

Along with these camps, youth are restricted in their movement at night with unconstitutional and unnecessary curfews where, if caught outside at night – even if not committing a crime or causing a disturbance – can be subject to questioning and arrest. Youth are not allowed to make the most basic medical decisions for themselves without their parental consent, and youth have been denied life-saving needed treatment because of this.

This is just a short list of abuses that continue to be perpetuated against youth solely because of a certain arbitrary age. And contrary to popular belief, the end of childhood doesn’t stop when one turns 18. Harsh restrictions continue until one turns no younger than 21. This is a logical contradiction for which organizations such as Choose Responsibility and the National Youth Rights Association hope to address. As the saying goes, how can one man die and kill for their country yet not be allowed to hold and sip a beer?

Organizations like the National Youth Rights Association, which has partnered with Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth and Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions, have decided that a National Youth Rights Day, if nothing else, can bring about the smallest of change. And the smallest of change can make the biggest of difference in the lives of youth everyday.

If you think that just because you’re over 18 or over 21 that you need not be concerned with youth rights, just remember that you too were a youth once and had to deal with laws that discriminated against you. You can change what the youth today have to go through, making a difference in their freedom today and tomorrow.

How can you help? Wear an arm band supporting youth rights, write a letter to your local newspaper, protest a business that discriminates against youth and call and mail your representatives. Most importantly, tell youth that they have rights. They do, we just have to respect them.

Lindsey Coley is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]