Intervening in the lives of truant children by jailing parents

7 Oct

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. The question is how does society handle parents who are abusive, negligent, and often MIA. Christine Mac Donald reported in the 2010 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. California has a law which jails parents of truant children.

Nina Golgowski reported in the Daily Mail article, California mom jailed for 180 days over children’s chronic truancy setting example as one of the firsts in the state:

A California mother has been jailed for 180 days after her two children missed more than 10 per cent of last year’s school year, setting an example as one of the firsts by a new state law.

Lorraine Cuevas, 34, was arrested after school officials said her second and third grader at Monroe Elementary School in Hanford together missed 116 days of school.

The school board says the mother had plenty of warning of the new state law combating chronic truancy with a number of phone calls and letters sent to her home that they said went ignored.

ollectively missed 160 days of last year’s school year

‘It’s a process that takes months to get to this point. On average we’re making 15-20 calls in dealing with these issues,’ Superintendent Tim Bowers of Kings County Schools told KMPH.

Pleading guilty to her crime, Cuevas is one of the first to be convicted under the state’s law and the second to be jailed in the county this year.

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.


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7 Responses to “Intervening in the lives of truant children by jailing parents”


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