Last week, when addressing the vandalism incident by Darien High School students at his school, New Canaan High School assistant principal Ari Rothman told the New Canaan Advertiser that what the students had done was something he was “confident our kids would never stoop to.”

What the five Darien students did was wrong, and they should be punished for it. They will be punished for it. Darien school administrators responded immediately to the incident, cooperating with the police and condemning the act within the school community and to the public.

But to make the statement above is not fair to either town’s students. Darien students make mistakes. New Canaan students make mistakes. They are, after all, children — no matter how much we try to treat them like adults. To essentially say, as in the quote above, that one group is better than the other, is part of why this vandalism happened in the first place.

It is up to the adults to show why both towns are great, instead of adding fuel to the fire. The rivalry belongs on the fields and in the stands. It is healthy to strive to be best. And it is healthy to have pride in your town and in your teams.

And both towns should learn that while the children of Darien and New Canaan are often exceptional in terms of talent, drive, and success, they are still children who make children’s mistakes.

The rivalry between Darien and New Canaan is likely the best rivalry in the county, if not the state. It should continue, but too much pressure or desire to win can outweigh the importance of fairness and sportsmanship on either side.