Yokota commander lays out expectations for teenagers
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Hoping to head off problems and map out a productive path for the new academic year, Col. Scott Goodwin met Wednesday with Yokota High School’s students and teachers, and then parents in two separate, closed-door sessions.
The 374th Airlift Wing commander said before the meeting that he planned to highlight his expectations, emphasize parental involvement and outline the consequences for student misconduct — following a year in which “the extreme minority” of Yokota teens engaged in shoplifting, illegal drug and alcohol use and the vandalism of a family’s home on base over spring break.
“I want to take the opportunity to welcome everybody back to school, but remind them of some significant policies out there. There are also consequences if you make a bad choice,” Goodwin said. “I mostly want to focus on preventive measures, so everyone can have a great school year.”
Parents weren’t required to attend the late meeting, but officials anticipated a turnout of up to 300.
Before the final assembly, Yokota High School principal Richard Schlueter said he welcomed the visit and hoped it would have a positive impact.
“We want to spell out the expectations,” he said. “It’s a continuation of just talking to the students about the behavior one would expect of a guest in a foreign country, both on and off base. That will be the focus.
“It’s not so much related to last year’s events, but we’re trying to preclude any more incidents from happening.”
Tech. Sgt. Daniel Alvarez and his wife, Linda, attended Wednesday’s meeting. They have a son and daughter at Yokota High School.
“The commander talked about getting parents involved more and he went over lot of the stuff that’s happened with teens on base, as far as getting into trouble and the consequences,” Daniel Alvarez said Thursday. “He said we shouldn’t be afraid to be parents to all the kids on base.
“He also said the parents that needed to be there weren’t, unfortunately,” Alvarez added. “But I was glad to see him getting involved. It shows he cares for the teens. I think a lot of good came out of it.”
Alvarez said some parents suggested there aren’t enough outlets for teenagers on base. Others pointed to activities offered by organizations such as Boy Scouts and chapels.
Goodwin indicated he’s pushing for the return of the Teen Center, which has been used as a makeshift gym since last August as workers complete renovations to the base’s main fitness center.
“They talked about things to do for the kids,” Linda Alvarez said. “I think some people are looking for that one place where their kids can go. There are things for them to do, though, they’re just different.”
She said that overall the meeting “was pretty positive.”
Four months ago, many parents attended an “emergency” meeting called by Col. Mark Schissler, the former Yokota commander, who became concerned following a spike in juvenile delinquency, on and off the installation.
At the time, Schissler estimated that “10 to 12 percent” of Yokota teens had been implicated in shoplifting and petty theft cases. He expressed concern over sexual promiscuity and the illegal use of alcohol and drugs in that age group, fearing such risks could lead to tragedy.
Wednesday’s meeting covered the various ramifications of teen criminal behavior, which include the loss of Army and Air Force Exchange Service privileges, school suspensions and removal from status-of-forces-agreement standing for serious offenses. Those who take part in off-base misconduct also are subject to the Japanese justice system, which tends to impose harsher sentences.
“We want to remind the students of their responsibilities as citizens,” Goodwin said. “It’s the extreme minority of them who cause problems. The majority are good students, terrific citizens and great kids.”