The kids are not all right

Cindy Glover


If local news over the past week has left you feeling a chaotic mix of emotions regarding kids and society – and how to protect them from each other – you’re not alone. 

To recap: A 13-year-old boy shot a police officer on Wednesday; a stillborn baby was found in a dumpster on Thursday; and early this morning a 15-year-old tried to rob a McDonald’s employee and fired three shots at bystanders who called 9-1-1. 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and the national consensus is that our kids’ mental health is not good. The mental health of our first responders is also a pressing concern.

Lakeland’s school resource officers will leave their posts in a few weeks, to be replaced by sheriff’s deputies next fall – generating an outpouring of affection from students and staff. But it’s also a reminder that they were put there because school shootings are an ever-present danger. 

On a happier note, it’s graduation season. Over the next five days, high-achieving students will give speeches full of youthful optimism and misty-eyed parents will nearly burst with pride as kids who just barely eked through receive their diplomas.

It’s hard to know how to feel about young people, who can seem so young and full of promise at one moment and so angry and hardened at others.

At LkldNow, we wrestled with this in a very concrete way this week. We had to decide whether to use the names of juveniles charged with attempted murder. In case you missed it, this was the note we published at the bottom of our article naming Wesley Dalmas, 13, as the shooter of LPD Officer Jamie Smith:

Editor’s note: The decision to name victims or suspects sometimes requires judgment calls. At LkldNow, we consider many factors before publishing people’s names. As a general rule, if a juvenile is charged with a serious violent crime like murder or attempted murder, if he or she is likely to be prosecuted as an adult, and if law enforcement officials have publicized the juvenile’s name, we believe the public has a right to know who they are. Each situation is considered on a case-by-case basis, but these are the sorts of things we take into account. In this situation, the callousness of the crime and suspects’ previous criminal records made our decision clear. Although adolescent brains are not fully developed, violent youths armed with guns can inflict as much harm on society as any adult.

There is one more litmus test we should have mentioned. It is not lost on us at LkldNow that many of the mugshots we’ve published recently have been youths of color. At the Race & Equity forum we hosted with Lakeland Vision last week, leaders and community members discussed many of the disparities that still exist in our community.

Researchers have found that children of color are often viewed as older and less innocent than white children by teachers, law enforcement officers, judges and media. Many mothers of Black boys have written poignantly of their fears as their sons approach the invisible threshold between “cute” and “threatening.” 

We don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or unfairly strip kids of the chance at a clean slate later in life. So before we identify a juvenile, we also ask ourselves if we’d be publishing the name of a rosy-cheeked white girl (or any other child) accused of the same thing. 

The answer in all of our articles this week is yes. But being even-handed in our reporting isn’t enough. 

Children don’t grow up in a vacuum – they come of age in our schools and our neighborhoods. They see what we do, hear what we say, and notice how society treats those around them. Many of our kids are in crisis and we all need to do what we can about that. This is a community-wide conversation we will keep encouraging.

15-year-old Charged With Attempted Murder for Shooting Near South Lakeland McDonald’s

PCSO detectives say he tried to rob a McDonald’s employee and then fired three shots at bystanders who called 9-1-1.

Plan to Replace School Resource Officers with PCSO Deputies Moving Ahead

Lakeland, Lake Alfred, Bartow, and Auburndale Police officers will be replaced by Polk County Sheriff’s deputies in the upcoming school year.

It’s Graduation Season in Polk County With Back-to-Back Ceremonies Starting Friday

About 5,800 students will receive diplomas or certificates of completion from PCPS schools over the next week.

Mayfaire-By-The-Lake Art Festival Winners Announced

Nathan Miller, a Tampa native now living in Georgia, won Best of Show and $5,000.

LPD, LFD Work to End Stigma Around Seeking Help for Mental Health

‘We see things humans are not designed to see … over and over and over again,’ Assistant Police Chief Steven Pacheco said.

LPD Patrol Vehicles to Get a New All-Black Look

The Lakeland Police Department can save $3,000 per vehicle by making them a single color instead of black-and-white.

‘No Foul Play’ in Death of Infant Found in Dumpster

Woman who gave birth said she didn’t know she was pregnant and admitted to putting stillborn baby in garbage bin, police say.

Lakeland Police Seek Four ‘Persons of Interest’ in Death of Newborn Found in Dumpster

Three women and a man who were traveling together in a red sedan are believed to have information about the baby’s death.

City Commissioner’s Alleged Killer Headed for Trial in January

The accused killer of former Lakeland City Commissioner Edie Yates Henderson and her husband David Henderson appeared at a court hearing on Friday morning.

City To Vote on $70 Million Bond for Lakeland Electric

If passed, this new bond will help pay for repairs made to out-of-commission Power Plant Unit 5.

All Three Suspects in Lakeland Police Shooting Arrested

The 19-, 14-, and 13-year-olds are all charged with attempted first-degree murder after a Lakeland police officer was shot Wednesday.


Polk legislators tout successes at Chamber event – as long as DeSantis doesn’t veto projects | The Ledger

Traffic Alert: Fish Hatchery Road south of Memorial Blvd to close for 5 days so CSX can repair railroad track defect | Patch

Lakeland man dies in ATV rollover on wildlife trail, was pinned for 30 minutes before passerby found him | News Channel 8

Salvation Army officers Jeremy and Kristina Mockabee honored as ‘CityMakers’ for efforts to help homeless families | LoveLakeland

Mental Health Awareness Month Community Summit | Friday | 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Lake Crago Complex
Peace River Center is hosting a large-scale community “Mental Health First Aid” training. The event is free and includes a catered lunch. Registration is recommended. Participants are eligible for up to eight continuing education credits.

2023 Lakeland Police Foundation Fallen Heroes Memorial 5K | Saturday | 7 a.m. | Cleveland Heights YMCA
You can run, walk or skip at the 6th annual Fallen Heroes Memorial 5K at beautiful Three Parks Trail. The event raises funds to for education grants, financial assistance to officers suffering extreme hardships, assisting retired police canines, supporting the Police Explorer Program, and maintaining the Fallen Heroes Memorial that was built to honor our seven Lakeland Police fallen officers.

Author Talk with Courtney Summers | Saturday | 2 p.m. |Lakeland Public Library
The New York Times-bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of several young adult novels including “I’m the Girl” will be at the Lakeland Public Library on Saturday.

Young Polk County baker Tabitha Morrobel, 13, has been getting a rave reviews for the dessert breads she bakes at home and sells on the weekends. The soon-to-be seventh grader’s business All Mixed Up is on Facebook. | Courtesy of Abby Morrobel

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Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. Her career has included journalism, education, digital marketing and public relations. She was a crime reporter, City Hall reporter and political writer for newspapers including the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining LkldNow. Reach her at or 561-212-3429.