• “Attention, Walmart customers. All Black people, leave the store now.”

    Date: 04.02.10 | by Judge Tom.

    These were the words of a 16-year-old boy in Washington Township, New Jersey. On Sunday, March 14, 2010, he grabbed one of the courtesy phones in the store and calmly made his announcement. Once identified as the speaker, he was arrested and eventually released to his parents. He was charged with harassment and intimidation. The case is expected to remain in the juvenile system. Investigation continues into identifying a possible accomplice.

    Walmart moved quickly to apologize to everyone in the store. They also updated their intercom system to prevent this from happening again. Some customers were upset and reported hearing of similar incidents in other stores.

    If you were the juvenile court judge assigned to this case, what would you say to this boy? What do you think would be an appropriate penalty for what he did? Would community service hours make a difference in his attitude about tolerance and diversity? What could sensitize him to the consequences of offensive speech?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • Willie Evangelista
      Mon, 12 Apr 2010 at 06:39

      Offensive Speech (yes), however protected Speech, this child is protected by the 1st Amendment. We cannot force our moralistic beliefs upon anyone, it probable was more a harmless prank in his eyes more then one that is offensive, it is only offensive to those whom are black..As a Purto Rican, i would have taken it as a joke, as i do not care what true niggers have to say look the word up “nigger” “a ignorant person”, it doesn’t say what race you have to be,to be considered ignorant, in the 21st century why do we have to choose our words with fear or harming an entire race?
      Dear Willie: Thank you for your comments. Note: The word ‘nigger’ has several meanings [see Webster's Dictionary] including a member of a socially disadvantaged class or any dark-skinned race. Today, however, the word ranks as perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English against a black person. Not all speech is protected under the First Amendment – including “fighting” words that would under most circumstances include the word “nigger.”
      [This is information only - not legal advice.]