As Independence Day ends, I am reminded of a recent court hearing in Bayville, NY. Neighbors, finally fed-up with what they claim is too much noise from one family's backyard, filed an official noise complaint against Rachel and William Poczatek. The Poczateks are the parents of two girls, ages 5 and 11, and due to the complaint, they found themselves in court facing a judge.
All this because two little girls play vigorously in their own backyard pool?
Two of the complaining neighbors declared that the two girls squealed and screamed in their parents' pool entirely two loudly and too often. However, the judge disagreed, in a way. He said the charges against the parents did not meet the requirements of Bayville's noise ordinance. You can watch video about the complaint and subsequent dismissal here at FOX 5 New York television.
In the video, one neighbor, Sheila Brown, said the level of the girls' noise was "unacceptable. Unacceptable!"
She said she has five dogs who don't make as much noise. One neighbor taped the girls playing in the pool as evidence. The parents have demanded that the video be turned over to them.
The girls' mother, Rachel Poczatek, said her daughters were just playing the way children should and that she tells the girls to quiet down, but they are children being children. She also said she will work harder to keep the girls quiet in the interview following the judge's dismissal, but her children were being children.
The Poczatek family has lived in the neighborhood 15 years.
Had the judge agreed with the Poczatek's neighbors, the parents could have received fines and possibly jail time. Possible jail! Tess at Dim Sum Mum says "this story makes me very scared to visit or live in north america."
The June 20 story at Fox 5, written by a journalist at the Associated Press, reports the girls' father's relief and irritation:
"I think the village did the right thing," William Poczatek told reporters who converged on the bayfront village to chronicle the brief court proceeding.
Earlier in the day, Poczatek said he was shocked when he and his wife were slapped with a summons. Sure, he said, Ashley, 11, and Chloe, 5, make noise when they're outside enjoying their aboveground swimming pool.
"What, are you telling me that a kid can't make noise?" he protested. "It's not fair."
Were the neighbors being unfair to the Poczatek family as the father says?
Comments on this story vary at JerseyShoreMoms.com. One person said, "Noisy kids??? PLEASE! Get over it. You live in a family neighborhood, you have kids. Its that simple." Another commenter wrote of the "other side" of such stories.
I had really loud neighbors with many extremely loud and rude kids ranging in ages from 15 down to 5ish. They were horrible. Not only were they loud and obnoxious - including yelling out curse words - but when I asked them nicely to stop or keep it down, they only escalated the noise levels. (Source: Jersey Shore Moms)
I once faced a situation similar to the commenter's woe, but it doesn't sound like the Poczatek girls are rude, cursing children.
The Poczatek's attorney said that if the village court hadn't dismissed the charges, the case probably would've gone to the Federal courts because the Poczatek's 14th Amendment rights would have been violated.
I suppose he relates the Poczatek's case to the part of 14th Amendment that says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, property ..." That particular amendment is critical to most civil rights cases. It was written to address laws that restricted the rights of particular groups of citizens and proposed and ratified during Reconstruction to address the civil rights of African-Americans in particular, however, every American benefits from its ratification.
So, as I said in the beginning of this post, the end of this Independence Day prompted my thoughts about the Poczatek's and their disgruntled neighbors. Possibly I related the two because in my college American Government course, the professor used violation of a noise ordinance to explain freedom. It was in this course that I first heard this statement: "Your freedom ends where the next person's begins."
The professor challenged us with the example of a young person in a car driving down the street, blasting the stereo in his car. He said that while the young man had the right to listen to his music, the people who rode in other cars and those on the street had the right not to be disturbed by loud music.
Could this reasoning be applied to the Poczatek girls or is their case simply a case of children behaving in their own back yard the way children do and crotchety neighbors who think quieting children is no different from quieting dogs?
I've written about adults angry with parents because their children make noise before. Remember the showdown at the Golden Corral? And while researching this post, I came across the story of a mother who was asked to leave a church's sanctuary because her special needs child was "too noisy."
I've been to church. Ushers usually ask parents who struggle with a noisy child, "Would you like us to take him out and quiet him down." I don't think the average church usher would feel comfortable attempting to quiet an older special needs child. I was once the mother with the noisy toddler in church, but I usually left before anyone asked me to take the child out.
Also, I was once the noisy child in church. My mother used to tell the story of going to my great aunt's funeral when I was two or three. She said an usher came and asked could she take me to the bathroom because I was saying loudly, "Who's in the box? Who's in the box?"
Furthermore, I recall a post by Mamalogues about the frustration of dealing with a noisy or cranky child while in public. However, she was speaking of a child much younger than the Poczatek girls, and the Poczatek girls were not in public but in their own backyard pool.
For fun I leave you with the song "Noise Complaint by Big D and the Kids Table. Talk about rowdy group! What if those Bayville neighbors had to contend with this?
Finally, I wish you all a Happy 4th of July! Let freedom ring!
Photo credit: The Learning Journal at WordPress
Nordette Adams is a Contributing Editor for BlogHer. Her personal blog is Goddessblogs, a work in progress as she switches from Confessions of a Jersey Goddess in preparation for her family's move to her hometown, New Orleans, La.
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