Adults have failed when hundreds of Kentucky children ages 10 and younger are being charged with crimes. There are far more sensible and effective ways than police and courts to deal with a young child's misbehavior.
Yet, 2,117 children under 10 have been charged with criminal violations since 2006.
Five-year-olds in Kentucky have faced charges of criminal mischief, harassment, abuse of a teacher, criminal trespassing and even fraud.
The numbers are shocking — including to House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, who told Herald-Leader reporter Valarie Honeycutt Spears that he will hold legislative hearings to take a deeper look at what's going on.
That's a great idea.
Lawmakers should find out why parents, schools, counselors, social workers, psychologists and physicians aren't handling — or can't handle — these cases without resorting to the juvenile justice system. There may be instances when criminal charges are the best response, but they would be rare and extreme.
In Fayette County, prosecutors do not prosecute children 10 and younger unless the alleged offense is murder or something very serious.
In other jurisdictions around the state, young children are being prosecuted for crimes such as disorderly conduct.
Schools and teachers might think they're avoiding lawsuits by letting the justice system deal with certain families and situations.
Some schools and districts may lack the expertise and personnel to diagnose and respond to behavioral, emotional and learning disorders. Sometimes adults who are not part of the school system file complaints, and sometimes the complaints are filed by police.
What's important is that children and families receive the most suitable interventions as soon as possible.
If criminal charges bring children the help and discipline they need, that's one thing. A criminal charge against a child who's too young to understand, however, seems like a waste of resources and time.