Misbehaving Kids! Time For Parents To Pay Up

Two school board members in Nutley, NJ, have come up with an unusual way to make money for their school district: fine parents whose children are assigned detention. The board members, Steven Rogers and Walter Sautter, say they are hoping to adopt a policy by next school year that would charge parents for detention, which they estimate costs the district $10,000 a year in overtime and maintenance fees.

It may not seem like a lot of money, but it adds up over time,” Rogers said. “Parents need to step up to the plate and to be held responsible and accountable for their children’s habitual actions.”

During a recent board meeting, Rogers, who also works as a police officer in town, and Sautter, a former science teacher at Nutley High School, outlined their proposal to fine parents whose children are consistently sent to after-school detention. They have not yet determined the size of the fines or how to define a student who is habitually in detention. The school board’s attorney is currently considering whether such a proposal is even legal.

Let’s imagine the scenario at the monthly faculty meeting, as the principal announces that the school is short of cash, so could each teacher please assign at least one detention this week? And how would the payment work? A credit card machine in each detention hall? Parents could prepay, making it easy to deduct the cost of each detention

Charging mom and dad for their kid’s truancy is not a new idea. In Philadelphia, the City Council voted in March to charge parents $25 if their child was found wandering around the city during school hours. Truancy courtrooms in some parts of California and Texas issue citations with fines of up to $500; in 2008, Fort Worth Independent School District had 1,059 truancy court cases, with 433 involving fines. And hundreds of parents in England have been stuck with a fine of £50 ($75) when their child skips school.

But charging parents for detention? First of all, detention should not be about sitting in a room, doing nothing, waiting for the bell to ring. Students learn nothing from this. Wherever possible, detention should be tied to the offense; so if it’s graffiti, for example,  the child should be held accountable for cleaning up. If a teacher assigns detention for rudeness, disrespectful behavior, or repeated tardiness, why not have students do something to contribute positively to the school? Giving them a purpose to be in detention and having them do something might encourage them to think twice before they commit the same infraction that got them there in the first place.

Alternatively, have the student put in some community service hours. Kids need to take responsibility for their actions.  Several years ago, I experienced a creative solution to the problem of tardiness at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, CA; rather than being assigned detention for repeated tardies, students were required to have a parent accompany them to each class throughout one school day. This effectively took care of the problem!

This brings us to the bigger question: Who is to blame for a child’s bad (or good) behavior at school? Are parents or teachers responsible? Most people would agree that it’s a shared responsibility: the job of parents is to give their children the basics of respectful behavior, and the job of teachers is to establish classroom control by setting and enforcing clear expectations for student behavior.

So maybe parents who don’t keep their end of the bargain, parents with unruly and uncooperative children, should be charged for the detention of their children. Perhaps such a financial incentive would encourage parents to spend more time with their children and enforce some discipline, teach their kids to respect educators and honor class time. And maybe fining parents could be a way to get them to care about the behavior of their child.

The Nutley Board of Education has heard residents argue both sides of the issue. Lisa Manderichio, a local business owner with no children in the district, said she welcomes the rule as a cost-preventive measure: “The taxes in Nutley are high enough. I really think that the parents should be responsible for their children,” she declared.   What do you think?  Should parents pay for detention?  Is community service appropriate punishment?   Add your comments here to let us know!




Mervi R.
Mervi R8 years ago

An interesting idea.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago

an interesting thought, but i don`t think it`s really a solution to the problems involved.

Kerin Lee
Kerin Lee8 years ago

I kind of like this idea!

Zoi Ioz
Zoi Ioz8 years ago

It amazes me that so many people are so absolutely certain that they know the domestic situation of so many families so well that they can make sweeping condemnations.

Leia P.
Leia P.8 years ago

wow this is interesting

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

Sir Walk F., Over-crowded", under-funded".
Sorry, that's totally irrelevant; typical of the fallacy that throwing money at a problem will solve it.
Early in my teaching career I was teaching a class of forty-eight seven-year-old boys in the shabby hundred-year-old premises of a London U.K. school originally founded in 1492. The age-range of the school was seven to fifteen in those days. We had no discipline problems. Corporal punishment was the "ultimate deterrent" but seldom used.

The school enjoyed a reputation for academic success and parents were very supportive because competition to send their sons to us was very keen. We could accept only one in five applicants. The pupils were possessively proud of their school.
Learning flourishes only in an orderly, disciplined environment and I had no difficulty in teaching a class of that size. Moreover, subsequently as a headmaster I made sure that my schools were just as well-ordered as that.
All your education troubles stem from the root that so many of your young are an undisciplined rabble, lacking firm direction and inspiring leadership. It is part of your national culture, inculcated from birth, to challenge authority, to undermine governance, to criticise leaders, to belittle learning. You are paying the penalty and there seems to be little hope of any improvement. Also, you have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

Maria H.
Past Member 8 years ago

I like the idea of community service much better. Make the detention kids do the janitor's work for him! He could use a day off.

Amanda R.
Amanda R8 years ago

When kids start to screw off in school,there heading down a road of destruction! If there parents are letting them get away with it,than they'll think it's ok for them to act that way.Kids can get influenced real easy,but parents are the biggest influence on a child's life.For example,if a child see's there parents smoking cigarettes,than they'll think it's ok and start smoking to even if the parents are telling them not to,kids will still follow in the same footsteps.It can also be from the celebrity influences they see form famous people who act stupid.But one of the biggest influences is the other students and kids they hang around.If the parents doesn't set guidelines and rules for them to follow,they'll continue to hurt not only themselves but possibly the people around them.And the school's shouldn't have to take responsibility for what the children have done,it's the parents who should! It's the same pattern,this year it's misbehaving at school and getting detention,next year it's breaking the law and being sentenced to ten years in prison.

Simple change starts at home.

Diane H F8 years ago

Or hold teachers accountable instead for failing to control the students in their care. Frankly, I am just so tired of America's one answer to everything -- Get Tough On (fill in the blank). Most parents today are over-worked and trying to hold things together the best they can.

So just what lesson do children learn when their parents are punished for something that they didn't do and over which they (unlike the teacher) had no control? In a worst-case scenario, keeping in mind that so many parents today are over-stressed
and in financial distress, consider the potential consequences of throwing fines at them! Child and spousal abuse always increases during bad economic times, and this money-making scheme is guaranteed to have hellish or tragic consequences.

Sir Walk F.
Sir Walk F8 years ago

While the sentiment makes sense, it seems awfully problematic when you consider all the different factors and circumstances involved with 'problem children'.

The fact our schools are over-crowded and under-funded being a major issue, and i doubt these fines would do anything to address that. In addition, it seems like a lot of kids act5ing out at school may have issues at home due to financial constraints which obviously wouldnt be helped by even more monetary issues brought about by fines.