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Outrage: Actually having to return library books tapes

January 12, 2012
Salem News

A mother in Massachusetts has gone the false-outrage route and decided to play the victim in a case of poor parenting that led to police intervention.

When a police officer knocked on her door recently, Shannon Benoit kept her daughter, Hailey, with her as she answered the door. The officer was there to offer a gentle reminder that some books on Hailey's shelves were actually long-overdue library books, and, therefore, stolen. In addition, police say Hailey's father, Tony Benoit, had racked up $100 in late fees for overdue audiobooks.

"I was scared," Hailey said. Her mother claims Hailey also asked if the policeman was going to arrest her.

Instantly, the cry went up that the library's use of police assistance to help reclaim its stolen property was too harsh; that police went too far in visiting the family at home.

"She's five; she didn't understand," Shannon Benoit said.

It has, apparently, entirely escaped Benoit's notice that it is her job to help her daughter understand. As she has pointed out, Hailey is five years old - well past the age at which her parents should have explained to her the difference between borrowing and stealing.

Shelving library books since April, and ignoring several warning letters and library calls are not the way to help a child understand the importance of obeying the law.

Now, it is up to the police department to teach poor Hailey two things: Library books are to be borrowed and returned, or there will be consequences; and she may not be able to rely on her parents to bring her up in a manner that keeps her out of trouble with the law.

Library officials say they were trying to find a friendlier way to get back their books and the fees owed than issuing a summons. Partnering with the police sent a strong message without dragging Shannon and Tony Benoit to court.

It was a thoughtful, effective move.

Far too many parents believe it is someone else's job to teach their children the essentials, but are shocked when anyone tries. Police departments all over the country may find they need to put in a little extra effort now in order to prevent a great deal more trouble as those children grow up.



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