We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant

18 Dec

One of the mantras of this blog is that education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be involved. Teachers and administrators as well as many politicians if they are honest know that children arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Teachers have to teach children at whatever point on the continuum the children are.

This is a problem which never should have been swept under the carpet and if the chattering classes, politicians, and elite can’t see the magnitude of this problem, they are not just brain dead, they are flat-liners. There must be a new women’s movement, this time it doesn’t involve the “me first” philosophy of the social “progressives” or the elite who in order to validate their own particular life choices espouse philosophies that are dangerous or even poisonous to those who have fewer economic resources. This movement must urge women of color to be responsible for their reproductive choices. They cannot have children without having the resources both financial and having a committed partner. For all the talk of genocide involving the response and aftermath of Katrina, the real genocide is self-inflicted.

Alexia Campbell reports in the Sun Sentinel article, New court could mean jail for parents of truant kids:

A new truancy court in Palm Beach County won’t just go after children if they miss too much school, it could result in jail time for their parents.

Palm Beach County‘s main courthouse in West Palm Beach hosts the truancy court — launched in November — and is testing it on parents and students from kindergarten to third grade. The family hearings before Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kroll will be the last resort before Palm Beach County parents face criminal charges.

The new program is South Florida’s first experiment with a truancy court, although a handful of other counties have their own initiatives. The Broward and Miami-Dade state attorney’s offices run truancy intervention programs, but there is no judge set aside to specifically handle truancy cases.

Under Florida law, parents can be charged with truancy if a child between 6 and 16 has 15 or more unexcused absences in three months. They face up to two months in jail if convicted of the second-degree misdemeanor.

No one has been before a judge or charged in more than 15 years in Palm Beach County, according to the State Attorney’s Office. The reason? Prosecutors have focused on more important violent crimes and schools didn’t have liasons to help present strong cases.

Palm Beach School District staff have struggled to force parents to bring their absent kids back to school ever since budget cuts ended law enforcement interventions several years ago, said Judith Klinek, chief academic officer for the School District.

“We needed a little bit of muscle. There was no follow through,” Klinek said.

Palm Beach County schools reported that 6.6 percent of its 198,351 students committed truancy in the 2009-2010 school year, state records show. In Broward County, that number was 12.6 percent of 287,935 students. Records only included kids with 21 or more unexcused absences, so the truancy rate of students who missed at least 15 days is likely higher.

A group of 11 elementary schools with known truancy problems are part of the test, and it may expand next school year depending on the results. Among those in the group are Pleasant City Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and Seminole Trails Elementary, all three in West Palm Beach.

When a child reaches five unexcused absences in three months, the School District sends parents a letter. After 10 unexcused absences, they get another letter and a call from a “truancy liason.” After 15 absences, social workers with Boys Town, a nonprofit organization that provides family support services, will work with parents and children to find out what is going on.

If no progress is made, Judge Kroll will step in.

“Maybe a parent is significantly depressed and can’t get their child ready for school,” said Seth Bernstein, program director for Boys Town South Florida. “Or a parent goes to wake their child up in the morning and can’t coax them out of bed.”                                                                                                http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-12-11/news/fl-palm-truancy-court-20111209_1_truancy-court-absences-parents-of-truant-kids

Detroit Prosecutor Kim Worthy has explored the option of jailing parents as well.

Christine Mac Donald reports in the Detroit News, Worthy Proposes jail For Parents Who Skip Kids’ Conferences

Detroit — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok.

Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail. Parents of those excelling in school would be exempt, as would those whose health issues make travel difficult and those “actively engaged” with teachers through e-mail, phone calls or letters.

“We have to find any means necessary to get parents involved,” Worthy told the council. “We have to start talking about prevention.

“Some children don’t have a chance the day they are born.”

Worthy staffers said the proposed law would be the first in the nation. She said she prefers a statewide law, but would start with a city or countywide one.

No legislation is pending in the state House, county commission or council, but the proposal is generating plenty of talk — and controversy.

Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox, R-Livonia, said Worthy’s intentions are admirable but the prospect of jailing parents is “inappropriate on a lot of levels.” A colleague, Kevin McNamara, D-Canton Township, said he feared a law would become a “tattletale version of pin the tail on the bad parent.”

“The question is, ‘How much government do I want in my life?'” McNamara said. “The reality is it would be an unenforceable mandate that we don’t have time to do.”

Daniel Lessard, a Livonia Public Schools board member, called the plan “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

“You can’t legislate parental involvement,” he said. “If the law forces parents to go, what will it do other than fill up a room with parents who don’t want to be there?”

This next comment is in no way PC. Prosecutor Worthy is correct that parents MUST be involved in the lives of their children. Problem is, jailing them will not force the majority of them into meaningful involvement and interaction with their child. Society has a couple of options to counter the  this it’s my life and I’ll do what I want philosophy. The first is discouraging and condemning out-of –wedlock births, particularly among low-income women. Too bad the First Lady doesn’t want to take this one on. The second thing is to intervene early and terminate the rights of negligent and abusive parents, freeing children up for adoption earlier. Finally, this society needs to support adoptive parents with financial and counseling resources. Not PC, but there it is.

It is going to take coordination between not only education institutions, but a strong social support system to get many of these children through school. This does not mean a large program directed from Washington. But, more resources at the local school level which allow discretion with accountability. For example, if I child is not coming to school because they have no shoes or winter coat, then the child gets new shoes and/or a coat. School breakfast and lunch programs must be supported and if necessary, expanded. Unfortunately, schools are now the early warning system for many families in crisis.


How to Raise A Healthy Happy Child

The Importance of Play in Child Development

Protectors or Perpetrators

Questions to Ask Before You Divorce

How Can I Get A Good Divorce

Just Whom is This Divorce Good For?

Divorce as Friends

Divorce, What to Tell Your Children

Tell Your Children About Your Divorce

When to Seek Counseling

Helping Kids Cope With a Breakup

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

4 Responses to “We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant”


  1. Hard question: Does indigenous African-American culture support academic success? « drwilda - December 19, 2011

    […] We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant […]

  2. Johns Hopkins University report about school absenteeism « drwilda - May 17, 2012

    […] We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/we-give-up-as-a-society-jailing-parents-because-kids-are-tru… […]

  3. Study: The plight of African-American boys in Oakland, California « drwilda - May 27, 2012

    […] We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant                                                                https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/we-give-up-as-a-society-jailing-parents-because-kids-are-tru… […]

  4. Study: Effectiveness of student rewards depends upon timing « drwilda - August 1, 2012

    […] We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/we-give-up-as-a-society-jailing-parents-because-kids-are-tru… […]

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