Like all graduates of Lakeland (FL) High School, I am a Dreadnaught. We surely are the only school in America with that odd, but powerful, mascot. The experience of two current Dreadnaughts this week illustrates that America's understanding of sexual conduct involving minors has swung from one end of a pendulum to another. From a 1970's laissez-faire Polanski approach to a fully repressed Victorian renaissance in the 2000's. As a result, in our effort to protect children, we are not only targeting predators, we are targeting almost anyone.
The two Dreadnaughts made news when they participated in an activity known to every high schooler since Socrates. Eric Arce and Kyle Wohlfarth-Simmons, two seniors at Lakeland High, went on a double-date with two girls. The girls' parents knew of the date and gave their permission. Later in the evening, the four students went “parking” in a rural area of orange groves to, uh, enjoy one another's company. All parties agree that a good time was had by all. Until the police arrived.
Upon shining a spotlight into the vehicle, a sheriff's deputy discovered the four in various states of nudity. And the two young men were placed under arrest. Their dates were freshmen or sophomores. One girl was 15 years old, the other 14. Fellow high school students. And minors under Florida state law where the age of consent is 16.
Both young men now face second degree felony charges of lewd battery for sexual contact with someone under the age of 18. Arce also was charged with felony lewd molestation. If convicted, both men could face incarceration for as many as fifteen years. Of course, they will also be registered, likely for life, as sex offenders. Because of the girls' ages, their consent cannot be used as a defense by the young men. In other words, because of their participation in the American tradition of “parking,” two high school seniors now may be planning for prison rather than for college or careers.