Oh, Florida. Land of so much nuttiness. The latest? Florida's Palm Beach County has decided to jail parents -- up to two months! -- if their kids, ages 16 and younger, miss too much school. How much is too much? Fifteen or more unexcused absences in three months. In fact, Florida isn't the only state with a county going after parents so strongly in truancy cases. Counties in Maryland, Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Pennsylvania are also sending parents to jail or levying huge fines against them if their kids miss too much school.
Is throwing parents in jail because they're kids cut school cool?
I get why the court system might want to take a strong hand with parents in the case of younger kids. We really all should be able to find a way to get our 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds to school. But in the case of older kids, I have to wonder if going after the parents so strongly is the right move. (Has it proven effective? I'd be curious to know ...)
Kids who are 15 and 16 inarguably have minds of their own, and make their own decisions, good and bad. Parents can drop them off at the door to their school and watch them walk in the door -- but they cannot know what their kids do after that. Do they walk right back out the door and skip school?
Jailing parents in such cases (and perhaps the courts do take such things into consideration; in Florida, parental prison time is reportedly a last resort) seems extreme and maybe even counterproductive. If the parent is in jail, how will she then help get her kid to school -- or help the kid address problems that may have resulted in cutting school? Couldn't jail time make homes with truant children all the more unstable? And aren't our jails crowded enough as it is?
What's more, what are we teaching kids about taking responsibility for their own actions, and their own lives, if we're making parents pay for their misdeeds? Once kids reach their teenage years, it seems to me, it's time for them to take more responsibility for their own decisions, not less.
What do you think of truancy laws that jail parents if their kids miss too much school?
Image via Dennis Vu Photography for Unleashed Media/Flickr