Aug. 3 marked the beginning of Pilot Rock's extension of its youth curfew into previously unknown territory.

Children 15 and under have to be home by 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and by 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sixteen and 17-year-old children have to be home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Of course, the curfew is not for the safety of the kids but rather the tranquility of the town. City Councilor Virginia Carnes explained that the town was having problems with vandalism at the high school.

"These are kids who are too young to drive and they're out and they shouldn't be," Carnes said. "We're just trying to get a better handle on these kids."

The answer to vandalism at the school might be increased police patrols or better lighting or Pilot Rock parents paying more attention to what their kids are doing. Hard-and-fast curfews limit the rights of law-abiding children unnecessarily while deepening the role of government in parenting.

Also, why is it such a crime for a kid to be out late at night in the summer? Are Pilot Rock civic leaders worried kids might have some fun?

The differentiation between weekend nights and school nights also makes no sense in the summer when there is no school.

Though youth curfews are common throughout the country, I have never understood why. Perhaps I was a precociously responsible child, but most of the rules I remember from my childhood didn't make any sense then and make no more sense now.

Why couldn't I run in the halls? Why did I have to spend the first 30 minutes of my lunch break in the cafeteria, even though it took me only 20 minutes to eat? That's 10 minutes of recess I was robbed of!

While my old elementary school had its share of excessive controls, they were nothing like what The New York Times mentioned recently. A school in Georgia has a foot-wide blue stripe running the length of its hallways. Teachers expect the children to walk along the stripe single file.

Similar measures are common in prisons. Is this really how we want to treat our children?

Kids lack any measure of political power, and adults have shown no hesitancy to trample upon their rights and limit their privileges. The First Amendment guarantees the "right of the people peaceably to assemble," but apparently not for kids in Pilot Rock and many other cities around the nation.

Likewise, the 1999 state legislature added a provision that allows school districts to ask the state DMV to suspend the licenses of students who skip school. Can you imagine the outrage if they linked adults' drivers' licenses to showing up for work?

Unfortunately, Pilot Rock parents and civic leaders enacted and extended a curfew for their own peace of mind.

That's not good enough.

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Chuck Slothower of Corvallis is a reporter intern working this summer at the East Oregonian. He will return to the University of Oregon after Round-Up.

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