Friday, June 18, 2010

Parents: Get Involved or Go to Jail?

Recently, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that she is pushing for a proposal that would force parents to become more active in their children's school lives by requiring them to attend parent-teacher conferences under the threat of  fines or jail time for failing to do so.

Her thought behind this is that if more parents are forced to get involved in their kids' education then maybe they will take a more active role in helping teachers be more successful in reaching their children and at the same time hoping that more parental involvement will curb juvenile violence and truancy.

Worthy's efforts on this matter have been met with a bevy of mixed emotions, and rightly so. On one hand, I completely agree with her thought process about parents needing to get more involved in the lives of their children, especially where education is concerned.  But on the other hand, I would have to say that putting people in jail for a lack of parenting skills is a little bass-ackward.

Though her heart is undoubtedly in the right place, one would have to wonder if Worthy really thought out the entire laundry list of pros and cons of what she is proposing. For instance, if a parent is brought up on charges for missing conferences, what good is it going to do the child if that parent is then thrown in jail? That reaction only compounds the problems by leaving another child in the system if there are no family members who are willing to step in.  On top of that the child now has to deal with an absent parent on top of everything else, and society has to foot the bill for yet another inmate.

But the biggest part of this piece is that you can't force someone to care. You can fine them and threaten them with the harshest punishments you can think of but at the end of the day, will that really make them care more about their kids then they do already?

While it is a no-brainer that parents obviously need to take more stock in the lives of their children, it really doesn't seem like jail time is a viable option for something like missing parent-teacher conferences. Our jail and prison systems are already overflowing with mothers and fathers who need to be at home raising their children.

So in essence, the remedy is not jail time; the remedy would be to address and modify the behavior. Maybe employers could be enlisted to make provisions for parents who need to leave work to attend parent-teacher conferences by granting time off to attend and then requiring a note from the school to verify that the parent attended. Or maybe perhaps instituting incentives for parents to come to conferences or fun incentives for them when their kids make honor roll status. Not that anyone should be paid to raise their kids, but free movie tickets would be a lot cheaper than housing them in jail for 24 hours a day for X amount of days. Just some food for thought.

I don't fault Kym Worthy for coming up with an idea, I just think that in this case the end doesn't justify the means. So let's go back to the drawing board on this one and see what else we can come up with.

What do you think?
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