A proposed teen curfew in Montgomery County has prompted many young people to bring their concerns to local lawmakers, and teens got the chance to question the plan in person at a special meeting of the Montgomery County council Wednesday night.
Before the meeting even started, it was clear that council members knew what they were getting into. Marisa Cleary of Rockville High School posed the first question.
"I would like the council to explain why they believe they can override the Constitution of the United States of America," she said. "I refer to the 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights."
County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed the curfew, which would run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays and from midnight to 5 a.m. on weekends. He and the police cite several recent incidents as justification for the curfew, especially this summer's so-called "flash mob robbery" of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Germantown.
Leah Muskin-Pierret, who attends Montgomery Blair High School, doesn't buy that argument.
"I heard someone say 'Are youth rights in this county worth $450 worth of stolen chips?'" she said. She called on three council members to justify their support of the curfew.
"I'd like you to defend that you care more, not just about your election results, but also about crime, and that you think this will actually solve crime," Leah pressed on.
Councilman Hans Riemer took her challenge. "I don't know if this gets me any votes. It probably loses me a vote for every vote it picks me up," he said. "So, not a political winner."
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen posed her own question, asking anyone in the packed chamber less than 17 years old to indicate if they already were subject to parental curfews. Fewer than 10 hands were raised.
"You mean most of you do not have a curfew at home? Your parents don't say you have to be in at 11?" she said. "That's very interesting. Thank you."
Teens have gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition against the curfew. The Council will hold another hearing on the proposal next month, but a vote has not yet been scheduled.
Virginia's attorney general Ken Cuccinelli will face former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe in November to become Virginia's 72nd governor.