The Zionist Conspiracy
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Frum and "At Risk"
A few days ago, Elster had a long post about "at-risk" teens from Orthodox families. (The term "at-risk" is the most common term used within the community, not Elster's.)
As Elster correctly points out, there are many reasons why teens may have problems, and each problem - and potential solution - must be evaluated on an individual level.
I believe one of the biggest mistakes made within the frum community is to view (and often relate to) all "at-risk" kids the same. A high school student in a charedi school who cuts class, goes to movies, and hangs out with members of the opposite gender is clearly violating his or her school's standards - and can legitimately be disciplined by the school - but is not necessarily actually "at-risk" until, too often, the school overreacts with disproportionate sanctions.
On the other hand, while the community should not completely shun anyone (except under the most extreme and rare circumstances), sometimes there can be too much tolerance. There have to be minimal standards and red lines beyond which people cannot cross. For example, I believe that teens from frum families, who, say, make it their point to hang out on shabbos smoking cigarettes or marijuana in a public area do deserve to be made to understand that their rebelliousness is not tolerable. While an open door policy for these kids should be maintained, sometimes the concept of "unconditional love" is confused with unconditional acceptance for any behavior, no matter how antithetical to halacha.