Fining Teens for Ditching School Will Make Even More Kids Drop Out

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moneyWhen I first heard that some high schools across the country are fining students for tardiness and ditching class, I thought, Huh. Maybe that's not such a bad idea. I might have been more motivated to be at school on time if I had to fork over $20 whenever I missed the bell.

But then I found out how much the schools are fining kids, and it's not $20.

Far from it. Teens (which of course means parents) are being forced to pay fees in the neighborhood of $500 for skipping school. In Concord, California, it's actually illegal for kids under the age of 18 to be out of school without a valid excuse. And some kids are being fined for lesser transgressions like cursing. Apparently in Texas, one student (who must have a mouth like a truck driver) racked up over $600 in swearing fees.

That's not solving a problem, it's creating another one.

Sure, maybe fines like that would make a kid with an already decent attendance record think twice before skipping, but habitual ditchers? The kids whose behavior inspired this policy in the first place?

They'll probably just end up dropping out altogether.

Think about it: Obviously, for some reason or another, school is already the last place these teens want to be. Maybe their distaste for academics stems from an undiagnosed learning disability, maybe they're sick of being bullied. Maybe they're working a couple of jobs to help their family make ends meet and can't make it to class. Whatever the reason, it's safe to assume their parents or guardians aren't overly concerned, or they would have put a stop to their child's skipping themselves. Why would they help their kid pay a $500 fine? And If mom and dad aren't going to open their wallets, how is a teen supposed to come up with that much money?

So the options boil down to dropping out of school entirely or ,,, what? Selling drugs to pay off tardiness-induced debt? Shoplifting? 

Yeah, that's a great plan.

Do you think fining teens for ditching school, being late or cursing is a good idea?


Image via taxbrackets.org

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fraoch fraoch

Our school system doesn't just call you when your child is absent (or missed the first period) they email you with a voice message and update the skyward account so there is literally no way at all they can skip w/o a parent seeing. Next, from what I understand, you'll be texted as well if you approve for them to do so. Maybe the school should look into doing that first, then having a chat w/the parents of the kids who are skipping as the parents may not know the extend its happening right now.

purpl... purpleducky

Yeah I agree with fraoch. I know a few people in high school who thought it was funny that their parents had to pay hundreds of dollars for them skipping school. These parents thought their kids were in school because they dropped them off and saw them go into the school.


But I do agree with investigating into why the teens are skipping school.

douxm... douxmusique

Teens skip school because they would rather be somewhere else and its easy. Once a kid knows they will survive the punishment the consequences don't matter. I used ti skip school because I just didn't feel like being there. I just left with friends to go hang out. There wasn't much the school could have read into with that situation. .... The fines are ridiculous, but when education budgets are being slashed by millions of dollars to pay for internet and personal computers in prisons or mansions for the state officials the schools have to make up the money somehow. They're just following the lead of law enforcement.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I don't agree with the fines being so high that they are prohibitive. $500 for a single infraction smacks of fund-raising, not discipline. But $20? That's reasonable. Especially since that kid who "can't afford it" is going to turn around and buy $20 worth of Monster and download a bunch of tunes.


We are seriously hamstringing our school system. From the very beginning, we are forcing them to use a "one-size-fits-all" discipline system. And it's obviously not working. Bullies don't understand "time out". Hoodlums don't care about detention. Corporal Punishment is out (understandably). But it's come to the point that teachers can't even raise their voices to a student without being disciplined for "hurting the student's self esteem". They can't dock grades anymore for absence. They can't fail a kid. Kids run the schools.


School is a student's job, plain and simple. If a student can't show up and do the work, he DESERVES to fail. Fine him. Dock his grades. Then after a certain number of fines or failing grades, maybe he's out for that year and will have to repeat. LET THEM FACE THE CONSEQUENCES. So he ends up on the streets and maybe in jail. MAYBE it will scare them straight. But we have to accept that, no matter how compassionate we want to be, we can't rescue everybody. At some point, a student MUST learn that he has to stand on his own feet.


Bending over backward to accommodate all of the poor behavior is backfiring and bringing the entire system to its knees.

Zamaria Zamaria

500$ is crazy. I don't have that kind of money for school fines! I doubt that I would even pay a 20$ fine for my child's absence or tardiness. I'd make him work and earn it himself. It teaches him nothing if I pay it for him. If it became a habit, I would probably just homeschool him or if he was old enough take him to get his GED. I wouldn't let him just drop out altogether. You can't get a decent job without a diploma or GED anymore.

PonyC... PonyChaser

Continuing my rant... Frankly, this is exactly why public schools should not be "free". Money should be a separate payment, not woven into Property Taxes or other taxes, especially for parents with kids in the school system. If you don't see where your money is going - and most property taxes are rolled into rent or mortgages, which is why people think school is free - you tend not to care how it's managed.


If parents were required to pay the EXACT SAME amount as they do right now, but as tuition and not property taxes (so the money goes to the exact same place, and in the exact same amounts), I would venture a guess that the schools would improve markedly. Why?


Look at Catholic Schools. Many run on a far smaller budget than public schools, and yet their students are generally better behaved. Why is that? It's not because of the religion, it's because the parents are directly involved. Parents have made the choice that their children will be at this particular school, and they've made the commitment to be involved - partly because they're paying for it and they want a return on their investment.


You buy a car with good money, you expect it to run well, and the warrantee to be honored. If parents had to sit down and cut a check for their child's education every month, rather than getting it for "free", they'd likely be far more involved.

mommy... mommyme2440

And those who pay no property taxes? Those who rent a tiny apartment and scrape and save to put food on the table? Tuition would break us, for sure. Goodbye Internet that I use to supliment their education, and that they use for homework, among other things. 


Fines that big will not help.kids can't pay it alone in most cases, I didn't make 500 a month at my high school job. what if you don't pay, and your parents can't pay? Suspended until you do, that will help! Put in out for creditors?

PonyC... PonyChaser

If you dont' think property taxes are rolled into your rent, you're mistaken. How do you think your landlord arrives at your rent amount? He factors that into the bottom line. It would take a little bit of accounting, but it could be done. If you read my comment, I said that it should simply be split out and charged separately, not raised or charged in addition to property taxes.

nonmember avatar HouseofTwits

@PonyChaser, I think you're on the right track, but your idea is complicated by those who DON'T have kids, like me! :) I still pay property taxes that fund public education... Which I'm happy to do because I recognize its valuable contribution to society.

I wonder if there wouldn't be a serious perception problem if non-parents were charged separately for education, especially since many people probably aren't aware they are actually contributing to the system (e.g., renters).

In any event, I like your idea!

nonmember avatar BellaGirl

I think docking parents for these infractions (and let's go so far as to say charging parents for those unruly, undisciplined kids), may in fact, motivate parents to be a parent. Some parents need to step up, take care of their kids, and lay down the law in their own households, instead of relying on the teachers to raise their children. Fines may be the only solution since all other alternatives have failed.

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