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40 teens arrested in connection with Amish tradition 'Rumspringa'

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Nearly 40 teens were arrested over the weekend. Local police say it was connected to an Amish tradition.

Rumspringa is a time for exploring and experimenting for a lot of Amish youth as they decide whether to stay in the church.

Police say this can also be very destructive and dangerous. That was the case in Shipshewana this weekend.

Those parties had more than 200 attendees, and according to police, they were mostly young and drunk. Aside from all the noise they created, the kids left behind a lot of trash just off State Road 5 in LaGrange County.

Brenda Jones says she didn't hear it but saw the aftermath on her way to church.

“We just saw a lot of beer cans laying and cups and stuff all over the yard and just a lot of vehicles parked there in the morning,” said Jones.

Jones says it’s normally a quiet, family friendly place.

“It's a little disheartening to know that that's happening in our neighborhood so close to our home, especially with young children,” said Jones. “We don't really want them to be influenced by that."

LaGrange County deputies broke up that party and another nearby.

Chief Deputy Tracy Harker says they're a mess for neighbors and they're dangerous to the party-goers.

“We have several of these kids, some of them are barely 15, 16 years old and they're out experimenting with alcohol and drugs,” said Harker.

Harker says when you have hundreds of kids against only a few officers, things can get dangerous, especially for the kids.

"They will break doors and windows to try to get out of there, to get away from us,” said Harker.

He tells us he doesn't want to make life hard for kids by arresting them at parties. He says they just need to make good choices.

And for Jones, Rumspringa isn't a "get-out-of-jail-free" card.

“To me, it's just as wrong for them, just because they're going through the Rumspringa, versus any other child, I don't think it's any more right for the Amish kids to be allowed to do that,” said Jones.


Harker says the sheriff's department does do outreach with Amish communities to talk about the dangers of underage alcohol and drug use. He says these parties are overwhelming for most Amish kids, who have had such a conservative upbringing.

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Harker tells us he doesn't want to eliminate the cultural rite of passage that is Rumspringa; he just wants to keep kids safe.

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