Moral Compass May Be Missing

Among the most disturbing moments in the trial of two Jefferson County teenagers convicted of raping a Weirton girl – and there were lots of disquieting comments made – was when a witness said he hadn’t understood the gravity of what the boys had done.

He had always thought sexual assault involved more violence than what the co-defendants did, the witness explained.

But what the two did was assault a girl who had virtually no ability to resist them. It was rape. It was illegal. It was wrong.

Both before and after the trial, an enormous amount of soul searching has occurred here in the Ohio Valley. A grand jury is to investigate whether other crimes were committed in connection with the rape and its aftermath, and whether additional criminal charges should be filed.

Already, two teenage girls have been arrested for threatening the rape victim.

To their credit, officials of Steubenville city schools, where the two rapists were students before being convicted, have undertaken a campaign to educate both staff and the public on sexual assault.

That may help – though any adult school employee who wasn’t crystal-clear on the illegality and immorality of the assault in question doesn’t belong in a position involving guidance of children in any way.

Educators and, much more important, parents are not doing an adequate job of instilling basic values in many young people. Perhaps the school system’s ongoing program can improve that situation.

As we have noted previously, however, many parents are not comfortable with sex education in schools. That sort of teaching should be done at home, they believe. They have a point, given the kaleidoscopic way in which modern culture seems to view values.

While educators can provide some fundamentals in ethics and understanding of the law, the bottom line is that teaching right from wrong is a task for parents and guardians. Those who shirk it or, perhaps, take it for granted their children are all right may be in for the shock of their lives – and that of their sons and/or daughters.

Again: The rape trial in Steubenville made it clear some young people did not understand how wrong the assault was. And on at least some levels, adults linked to the crime shared that lack of a moral compass. That ought to scare the dickens out of mothers, fathers and guardians throughout the Ohio Valley. Let’s hope it worries them enough to result in frank discussions with their children.