Parents of students at a Michigan high school will face stiffer penalties if their teen skips school this year. Commissioners for the city of Adrian last week approved an ordinance that could potentially punish parents of absent teens with a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Should parents be held accountable for their children in this way?
7,000 U.S. High School Students Drop Out Every Day
Across the U.S., 7,000 high school students drop out every day: that’s one every 26 seconds. Since research suggests that teens who regularly skip school are more likely than their peers to drop out of school, experts are deeply concerned about truancy.
Michigan is not the only state using legal avenues to crack down on truancy. In Illinois, excessive absences—nine unexcused absences or more—are considered a form of child neglect, a misdemeanor that can carry a penalty for parents of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. The state of California has a similar law.
U.S. News reports that school districts in Anaheim, California, have begun piloting a GPS-monitoring system. Students who are absent at least 10 percent of the time are given a GPS device about the size of a cell phone and are asked to use the device to check in five times daily—in the morning, after arriving at school, after lunch, after school, and at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, in New York, students receive phone calls from celebrities through the Wake Up! NYC program. Students who have missed at least 10 cumulative days of school get automated calls each morning from celebrities like Magic Johnson, rapper Trey Songz, and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes urging them to go to school. No word yet as to how well this is working!
High school students deemed truants can have their driving privileges revoked in some states, and it is common practice to ban truant students from participating in school sports or extracurricular activities.
Why Do Kids Skip School?
There are myriad reasons for students to skip school. Students are homeless, responsible for younger siblings, have children of their own, must work to help make ends meet, or care for ailing relatives. Some enroll in schools far away and get tired of taking three buses. Others say they are bored, while still others may be afraid to attend school.
The issue of punishing parents for their kids’ truancy has strong advocates on either side. Proponents feel that parents need to step up and take responsibility for their children. Parental involvement is key for the success of young people at school, so it’s important that parents keep track of their children during the day and pay attention to their school progress. That’s a parental obligation, and parents should be held accountable for their kids.
Opponents argue that punishing parents in this way doesn’t address the root causes of truancy and penalizes parents and youth with quality of life issues that prevent them from attending school. They argue that disciplining parents (and kids) for truancy is once again unfairly punishing minorities and the poor, who may have very valid reasons for not being able to attend school.
As a teacher, I am held accountable for my students while they are in school, so I feel that parents should be held accountable for ensuring that those students arrive at school. But sending parents to jail will only succeed in alienating parents and students from our public school system.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation