Should Parents Go To Jail If Their Kid Skips School?

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?

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Photo Credit: Gates Foundation

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Paul Hause
Paul H.2 years ago

Another plug....John Stossel's piece "Stupid In America" was revealing too. We'd do well to do like Belgium (and other countries), and offer vocational training in addition to core curriculum. Since the purpose of "school" is really to prepare a young person for a life of "work", years and years of service to their corporate masters, then we'd do well to have internship relationships with local employers, where a student can earn money while learning a trade, earning school credits all the while. Perhaps then, our employment numbers would improve. Oh, and stop offshoring to foreign countries too....that might also help.

We've spent how much time worrying over whether or not pizza was/was not a vegetable, and fretting over soda/snack machines in schools, but it seems we've spent LESS time concerned about the actual education young people are getting. I don't see that we're getting what we've all paid for.

I just don't think we've come to a point where we've HAD ENOUGH of the nonsense to stand up and DO SOMETHING.

Paul Hause
Paul H.2 years ago

(I think I ran out of room on the last comment.....)

At the same time, we keep hearing lots of drivel about private schools or homeschooling. Gotta wonder !

Paul Hause
Paul H.2 years ago

May I put out a plug here for "The War On Kids", a very revealing, and disturbing, documentary from 2007. All concerned about this issue should see that. Bottom line, THE SCHOOLS SUCK.

Why NOT have self-paced homeschooling or distance-learning for those who really need it ? Not every student can keep a uniform pace in school, and not even special-ed classes are really good enough. WE HAVE the technology, let's start using it. We hear so much about overcrowding, bullying, violence, drugs, a simple thing such as remote-learning might well be one step towards a solution. Perhaps we wouldn't have to build new schools, or bring in trailers to existing schools, if there were better utilization of remote-learning. If we can have all kinds of online colleges, why not at least junior and senior high school ?

But then, why listen to kids ? They don't matter, right ? I say we'd damn well BETTER listen to them, because they're going to be in charge one fine day when WE are all laid up in the nursing home, gasping for breath (if we even make it that far). No kid is going to care about ANY elder in their lives that has done them wrong...parent, teacher, or otherwise.

Information was once presented to me, talking about how the public schools have been infiltrated by those who seek to undermine them from the inside, to make an appearance that public schools are imploding, when they're actually being, in effect, sabotaged. At the same time, we keep hearing lo

Elliander E.
Elliander E.2 years ago

When I was 12 I knew I was smart enough to get my GED and go to college after taking a placement test, so I naturally asked if I could do so. I was informed that due to state laws I could not because the GED test is taken during school hours and I cannot skip school. It was against the law for me to skip school, even to take a GED.

Flash forward, and during my graduating year of high school I was informed that my school actually LOST my credits. They initially wanted me to repeat all of high school, but after the thread of lawsuit they finally said that I could have my graduation ceremony and high school diploma if I also get a GED. So I took the GED and scored perfect.

That overall left a negative impressive about school so decided to delay on going to college. I worked towards getting a house instead, and then once I was financially secure I decided to go to college. It's all so easy for me that I was a 4.0 student until last semester when I took on too big of a load and ended up with only 5 A's and a B.

In any case, I will be in college for a good 10 years or more working towards an eventually PhD and I could have saved a great deal of time if I was allowed to skip school when I was 12 and move forward with my education instead of sitting in stagnation.

My point is that public schools don't have the best interest of the children in mind. A student should be not only allowed, but encouraged, to skip class when doing so furthers educational goals. Also, students

Fiona T.
Fi T.2 years ago

Even if there's not jail imprisonment, they should be educated to educate their offsprings

Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago

They most likely need PARENTING CLASSES, with the child included

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

The U.S. will put people in jail for ANYTHING!! And last I heard, there isn't anymore room!

Jen Matheson
Jen M.3 years ago

Wow Tammy, that's terrible! If you're son was failing every year then I think it was the school staff that need to mature! I'm so glad you decided to homeschool your son. Lots of schools don't think people with special needs have any skills at all and they miss out on some pretty intelligent kids!

Tammy B.
Tammy B.3 years ago

No the parents should not go to jail. I wonder why the schools are not more intrested in knowing why the kid isn't wanting to be in school? I had a son sit through 6 years of school failing each year. He skipped some, he was not learning. I asked the principal each year why isn't my son learning? He told me he needs to mature. Bullshit! The school didn't teach him since he is mildly mentally handicapped! I was never so glad when I withdrew him and let him learn what and when he wants. He is a lot smarter than the schools ever knew! He taught me how to use the computer.

Alicia N.
Alicia N.3 years ago

oh boy!