Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 | 2 a.m.
About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 55th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 22. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Daniel Dominguez of the Las Vegas Academy writes about issues covered by his group, “Law and Crime.”
Las Vegas is a city that knows a good fight. The air on fight nights is electric. However, on a quiet Tuesday morning while most Las Vegans went about their usual routines, bouts were waged only minutes away from the Strip.
The 2011 Sun Youth Forum is essentially 28 verbal sparring matches going on at once, with the goal of finding the best solutions to some of today’s hardest problems. I was in one of those bouts. The experience went like this:
The first round was a safe one. The topic was whether Nevada should have a lottery. The first jab was the fact that lotteries are unconstitutional in Nevada, which was quickly countered by statements calling for amendments to legalize it. Critics said that it would draw revenue away from gambling, our state’s biggest industry. The response was simple: only allow tickets to be sold in casinos, and cut them in on the deal. Two-thirds of the room agreed that Nevada should join the 43 states that have lotteries.
Round 2: Should being able to carry a concealed weapon be a privilege or a right? For such a controversial topic, our room was surprisingly one-sided. The majority deemed it to be a privilege and disagreed only on which restrictions should be considered in issuing concealed-weapons permits. Yet, even in that, most of the room favored tough rules.
The next two topics were also relatively noncontroversial as the amount of media influence on society was deemed too high. Most agreed that the news media could not be fully trusted and that those wishing to know the full truth on any issue must research it thoroughly. Whether Americans would do that was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. Next, the forum members agreed that cellphone use while driving is dangerous, that the low fines attached to the action would not deter it, and that the punishments should be tougher.
The bout was leveling out when the topic of the appropriate punishment for cyberbullying was brought up, and it suddenly picked up steam. People were split sharply between those who viewed any punishment as too much and those who called for the crimes to be equated to their physical equivalents, such as a suicide caused by cyberbullying being equated to manslaughter. The flurry of words that followed added valuable points and counterpoints, and a tentative consensus was reached by saying that cyberbullying should be treated as harassment and nothing more.
The topic of illegal immigration brought out the voices of almost all the members. There was heated discussion about how much undocumented workers contribute to our economy and about whether migrant worker plans that some states have would be a good solution to the national issue. Two plans were raised to solve the issue: the first being an amnesty plan similar to the one implemented during the Reagan administration; the second one being a plan where any non-felonious undocumented person with an income would be put on a path to citizenship.
At the end of the day most of the people in the room were still on the fence about this and other issues, but a general consensus was reached on most issues in a room full of diverse juniors and seniors with widely different world views and backgrounds. Congress should take note: The bout was finished and all involved could raise their hands in triumph.