Tips for Teen Angels

Congratulations on turning 13! Welcome to your new life! Many wonderful opportunities await you, but so do some important challenges. Here’s what you need to know to be a healthy, happy, safe, and productive Teenage Citizen of America.

1. Be polite. It’s the law.
All Teenage Citizens of America want to be courteous, but sometimes they need pointers. Take a tip from the kids in Louisiana, where kindergartners and first through fifth graders are now legally required to address teachers as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” It’s a nice thing to do, and it makes school safer for everyone. (True fact: Columbine High School senior and aspiring Marine Eric Harris always used these salutations.)

2. When in doubt, ask Moses.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to act in school. That’s why the U.S. House of Representatives has decided that your public school may be allowed to display the Ten Commandments. If they’re not there, speak up! With the Ten Commandments handy, you don’t have to wonder whether it’s okay to smite someone or make a graven image. Remember: Teenage Citizens of America don’t covet, dishonor, or bear false witness.

3. Blue hair isn’t only ugly. It’s wrong.
Just ask Kent McNew, a 16-year-old student at Virginia’s Surry County High School who thought dyeing his hair blue might be “groovy.” He was wrong. Kent’s school, like many, strictly forbids “unusual or unique hair colors, such as blue or green.” Remember: These rules are here to protect you from weird things. “Anybody who doesn’t fit into a specific category or dresses differently or is considered a nerd or a geek, all of a sudden they’re a suspect,” says Andy Brumme, staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in South Caro-lina. So if you know someone who has blue hair, wears antisocial clothing, or listens to faggy music, don’t kick his ass–have him incarcerated!

4. Normal people do not wear black.
Just ask Jennifer Boccia, a high school senior from Allen, Texas, and one of about 10 students who wore black armbands to protest restrictive new school policies and to show respect for the Columbine High School victims. Bad idea. One student was suspended. When Jennifer showed her assistant principal a copy of the 1969 Supreme Court decision upholding the right of students to wear black armbands to protest the war in Vietnam, the assistant principal sent it through a paper shredder. Sorry, Jennifer, black is for losers, criminals, and people who live in Manhattan and smoke too much. Dressing brightly is your civic duty.

5. Going to the movies? Don’t forget your guardian.
Just because you’re old enough to drive a hefty, gasoline-filled vehicle at speeds of up to 75 miles an hour doesn’t mean you can watch any movie you want all by yourself. At the urging of the Clinton administration, the National Association of Theatre Owners is asking theater chains to make sure parents supervise not just the purchase of tickets for R-rated movies, but also the actual viewing.

6. A few words about lasers.
Laser pointers are not toys. That’s why recent laws have prohibited the “unlawful discharge of a laser.” Before you discharge your laser, think: “Am I unlawfully discharging this laser?” It just makes sense.

7. Drug tests are okay!
Just because you don’t do drugs doesn’t mean that everyone knows you don’t do drugs. Why not make it official? Since March 1998, De la Salle High School in New Orleans has chemically analyzed students’ hair for drug use at random–and sent the bill to their parents. Sure, some researchers warn that exposure to secondhand pot smoke could result in a positive drug test, but let’s face it: If you’ve been in the presence of drug users, you’re probably an addict yourself, especially if you have long hair. Hippie faggot! Teenage Citizens of America, share your follicles with pride!

8. Corporal punishment is the bomb!
Sometimes our younger friends need discipline. As we all know, failing to hit children early enough can have extremely serious consequences. That’s why in Oklahoma, thanks to new legislation, parents can now spank children in public. And in Nevada, new laws make corporal punishment A-OK! Spare the rod and risk a massacre. It’s up to you, people.

9. Losers aren’t your friends.
If you see someone getting teased, punched, or given a wedgie, there’s probably a very good reason. Think before you sympathize. A 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl recently said she understood how someone who was teased mercilessly could snap. She was suspended. Remember, unpopular ideas are like unpopular people: bad, dangerous, and probably unlawful.

10. Clarity: It’s the law.
Talking and writing may seem harmless, but smart Teenage Citizens of America remember this simple rule: If you can’t say something nice, you might be a horrible, unhygienic millennialist kook! A high school student in Wilmington, North Carolina, who wrote “the end is near” on his computer’s backdrop spent three days in jail for “communicating a threat.” Leave irony and poignant metaphors to the professionals. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say anything mean. It’s the law.

Well, that’s about it. Enjoy your life, but be careful. Just because schools are statistically among the safest places to be, and only 1 percent of child homicides occur in or around schools, and student murder is actually down since 1992, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play it safe. Dress nicely, speak politely, and be sure to report anyone who doesn’t. Re-member: Georgia’s state school superintendent recently suggested administrators be allowed to carry Mace, pepper spray, or stun guns. So before you attempt to be different, keep in mind that your principal may be strapped.

From Spin (Oct. 1999). Subscriptions: $15/yr. (12 issues) from Box 51635, Boulder, CO 80322-1635.

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