Punishing parents for a child’s bad behavior

4 Jun

 

The latest attempt to punish parents for a child’s behavior is described in Doug Erickson’s Wisconsin State Journal article, Monona police can now cite parents for a child’s bullying:

Monona parents whose children repeatedly bully others can now be ticketed by police and fined in municipal court.

The approach, part of a broader anti-bullying ordinance passed May 20 by the Monona City Council, appears to break new ground in the national effort to reduce harassment and emotional abuse among young people.

Julie Hertzog, director of the National Bullying Prevention Center in Bloomington, Minn., said she had not heard of such a tactic and was hesitant to comment for that reason. “This is the first time it’s been on my radar,” she said.

Likewise, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities said it could find no other municipal ordinances in the state that hold parents accountable for an offspring’s bullying. The Monona ordinance took effect Thursday.

Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga said no specific incident led to the ordinance, just a general concern about the tragic consequences of bullying, including a rash of school shootings and teen suicides across the country.

He thinks the parent-liability clause will be used sparingly, if at all, and only in cases where parents are obstructive or uncooperative. He hopes the mere threat of a ticket will be enough.

Sometimes you’ll knock on someone’s door and they won’t want to talk to you — their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong,” Ostrenga said. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.”

Parents who are making a good-faith effort to address a child’s behavior would not be ticketed, he said.

City Attorney William S. Cole called the tactic “a tool of last resort” and said he believes it would withstand a court challenge.

Parents can’t be blindsided under the ordinance. Before being ticketed, a parent or guardian must be informed in writing by an officer of a separate violation of bullying by the same minor within the prior 90 days.

A ticket is a municipal code violation, not a criminal offense. (Only the state Legislature can make something a criminal offense.)

A first violation of the parent-liability clause carries a $114 fine. Subsequent violations within the same year carry fines of $177 each.

I think it’s fantastic,” said Jason Burns, executive director of Equality Wisconsin, a Milwaukee nonprofit organization that works on bullying prevention in schools. “It forces parents to be more involved in their child’s life, if they’re not already.”

The broader ordinance prohibits any person age 12 or older from engaging in bullying, subject to similar municipal fines. The ordinance defines bullying as “an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no legitimate purpose.”

Much of the broader ordinance addresses conduct already prohibited by state statute, Ostrenga said. However, the state statutes don’t use the term “bullying.” The city wanted to be explicit and public about its stand against bullying, he said.

Much of the work on the parent-liability clause — the unique aspect of the ordinance — was done by Monona Det. Sgt. Ryan Losby, who shepherded the ordinance through a year-long city review process. Losby said he was motivated by research showing almost all of the recent school shootings in the country were committed by students who felt they were victims of bullying.
http://host.madison.com/news/local/crime_and_courts/monona-police-can-now-cite-parents-for-a-child-s/article_1e85dcbd-419a-502b-8ada-952c393dc2e1.html#ixzz2VJrbmQDX

Moi has written about other instances of punishing parents for their children’s behavior.

In We give up as a society: Jailing parents because kids are truant, moi wrote:

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 reported in the Detroit News, Worthy Proposes jail For Parents Who Skip Kids’ Conferences 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.

Resources

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

Related:

Intervening in the lives of truant children by jailing parents https://drwilda.com/2012/10/07/intervening-in-the-lives-of-truant-children-by-jailing-parents/

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