Helping Teenagers Stay Out of Danger

Among the many disturbing aspects of what has come to be called “the Steubenville rape case” is that at least one of the two boys convicted in it apparently did not realize what he had done was illegal.

Two former athletes at Steubenville High School were convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting a teenage girl from Weirton.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, whose jurisdiction is northern West Virginia, was paying close attention. After the boys were convicted, Ihlenfeld decided his office ought to do what it can to keep young people out of similar trouble with the law.

As Ihlenfeld pointed out, the combination of alcohol, smartphones and social media proved “extremely volatile” in both the rape itself and some of the shameful aftermath.

Ihlenfeld’s office has developed a program called “Project Future” to warn young athletes about dangers such as those highlighted by the Steubenville case.

What the two boys did in that situation was wrong. But Ihlenfeld’s program should help athletes at 11 participating high schools understand how circumstances such as those in the Steubenville case can combine to make certain situations ripe for trouble.

It is an excellent idea. But all high school students, not just athletes, need the perspective being offered by the campaign. Both teens who may harm others and potential victims could benefit. Educators should consider offering it to all high school students.