Kaytlen Lopan, 13, and an 11-year-old friend met a 3-year-old girl at McDonald’s and proceeded to cut off her ponytail. Lopan was charged with assault and ordered to serve 30 days in detention, pay restitution, and perform 276 hours of community service. But juvenile judge Scott Johansen offered her mother Valerie Bruno a unique alternative: Cut your daughter’s hair in exchange for a lighter sentence.
“I’m going to give you this option: I will cut that by 150 hours if you want to cut her hair right now,” Johansen said.
“Me, cut her hair?” Bruno asked.
“Right now,” the judge said. “I’ll go get a pair of scissors and we’ll whack that ponytail off.”
(Mindy) Moss, the victim’s mother, was in the courtroom and fully supported the penalty. She even spoke up when she didn’t believe Bruno had cut enough of Lopan’s ponytail off.
“Satisfied? Is it short enough?” Johansen asked Moss.
“No,” she replied. “My daughter’s hair that had never been cut, that was down to (the middle of her back), was cut up to here.”
“Take it off clear up to the rubberband,” the judge told Bruno, who protested that the scissors he’d given her weren’t up to the task.
“Take a little bit at a time,” Johansen said.
Speaking to the Deseret News, Bruno said she made the wrong decision:
“I guess I should have went into the courtroom knowing my rights, because I felt very intimidated,” she said. “An eye for an eye, that’s not how you teach kids right from wrong.”
While I agree with Bruno, I believe the judge’s alternative was admirable. 1) It offered the girl a way to spend less time in a detention center. 2) It allowed her to feel the humiliation the little girl possibly felt. 3) Maybe feeling the helplessness when someone older and stronger has complete control over your well-being, as Lopan did when she held scissors to a 3-year-old’s head, will stop her from doing the same or worse to another child.
There are, of course, specifics we don’t know about the child’s mental health or any previous behavioral problems. But from the outside looking in, I say the punishment is accurate. I also find it extremely interesting that Bruno is making the media rounds as if she and her daughter are the victims in this situation.
Weigh in, Clutchettes: Would you cut your child’s hair if she/he had bullied a much younger child and it would keep her/him out of a detention center?