A group of kids caught vandalizing a high school in Lynn could not face any repercussions in the courtroom due to a change in Massachusetts law.
Under criminal justice reforms passed by lawmakers this year, the state raised the minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction from age 7 to 12.
"This eliminates our ability to provide services to kids and families," said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
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Prior to its passage, Blodgett joined the Massachusetts Association of District Attorneys in expressing their opposition to the move, which they argued would prevent the state from intervening through the courts in order to provide counseling and other services.
"Nobody at that age is being prosecuted," Blodgett said. "Kids make mistakes. We know that. What we are trying to do is grab a hold of it quickly at age 7, 8, 9, 10 and up, so that would could perhaps make a difference in a positive way."
In Lynn, only one of four kids police found responsible for the damage was over the age of 12. The rest had to be released to their families.
It was the first time Blodgett's office has had to deal with such an outcome. However, child advocates are eager to see more.
"We shouldn't need a law enforcement response to a child welfare family issue," said Mary McGeown, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children.
In McGeown's experience with youth and their families, exposing a child to the criminal justice system so early in life can be detrimental to their growth.
"Children who are involved in the juvenile justice system are more likely to stay involved in the juvenile justice system, to do poorly in school, to not graduate from high school," she argued. "We know it didn't work."
While schools are able to intervene with their own disciplinary action and involvement from the state, it is unclear if that will happen in this case. The Lynn School District did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday.
"Now there will be a void," Blodgett said. "And we feel badly about that."