Monday, October 25, 2010

Can They Send You To Jail For Missing Your Kid's Parent-Teacher Conference?!?

Apparently, the city of Detroit thinks so. Ya'll know how I hate over quoting stories (reporters have sent me hate mail for doing this), but I think all the relevant facts need to be presented to help you make a call on this very touchy subject.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok. Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail. Parents of those excelling in school would be exempt, as would those whose health issues make travel difficult and those “actively engaged” with teachers through e-mail, phone calls or letters.

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“We have to find any means necessary to get parents involved,” Worthy told the council. “We have to start talking about prevention.
“Some children don’t have a chance the day they are born.”

Worthy staffers said the proposed law would be the first in the nation. She said she prefers a statewide law, but would start with a city or countywide one. No legislation is pending in the state House, county commission or council, but the proposal is generating plenty of talk — and controversy.

Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox, R-Livonia, said Worthy’s intentions are admirable but the prospect of jailing parents is “inappropriate on a lot of levels.” A colleague, Kevin McNamara, D-Canton Township, said he feared a law would become a “tattletale version of pin the tail on the bad parent.” “The question is, ‘How much government do I want in my life?’” McNamara said. “The reality is it would be an unenforceable mandate that we don’t have time to do.”

Daniel Lessard, a Livonia Public Schools board member, called the plan “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.” “You can’t legislate parental involvement,” he said. “If the law forces parents to go, what will it do other than fill up a room with parents who don’t want to be there?”

Worthy received a better reception before the council in Detroit, where school officials have complained about poor participation at parent-teacher conferences. Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown said, “If you aren’t involved in your child’s education, and he or she is failing, it’s child abuse.”

Council President Charles Pugh said the proposed law would “send the right message.”
Okay, I'mma be honest: I like this idea in theory, but I see bigtime problems with the execution. Namely, why should parents of kids who are doing well in school be exempt? Aren't we making a rash judgement that kids getting good grades have involved parents? We all know this is hardly the case, nor is assuming that kids struggling have parents who don't give a sh*t. Neither's mutually exclusive. That part of the proposed legislation definitely needs some refinement.

You truly can't legislate making someone give a sh*t. This would be the one rare case where I agree with the TeaBaggers. Making a parent take time off work, catch the PeopleMover all the way to their kid's school, and pretend to listen while a teacher tells them how sh*tty a job they're doing is probably not going to provide the intended result. On the contrary, I think you'll just agitate these parents even more. Besides, you're only making the parents attend one measly conference a year. What good is that really gonna do?

While we all know the problems, I don't pretend to have the solution to the problems with urban education. But much like pilot programs that pay kids for grades, something about this idea just screams chronically lowered expectations and "FAIL!"

Nice try Detroit. Now try harder.

Question: What do you think of Detroit's proposal to jail parents for missing school conferences? Will the threat of incarceration force parents to care about their children's education?

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