State Laws Punishing Parents for the Sins of the Children

Filed under: In The News, Education: Big Kids, Education: Tweens, Education: Teens

"Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin." -- Deuteronomy 24:16

Maybe, but don't go pulling that Deuteronomy stuff in Alaska, California or Florida. Your kid messes up in those states, and you're gonna fry!

The New York Times reports lawmakers in Alaska and California have new laws on the books to visit the price of tardiness, absenteeism and other sins of the child upon the parent. The Florida Legislature is considering cracking down on parents, as well.

Just take a look at standardized test scores and graduation rates. What do all the "best" schools have in common? They have involved parents.

Ah, but how do you motivate parents to get involved, you ask? There are a lot of complicated answers to that question, but the easiest one is to borrow a page from Sister Mary Dominatra over at Our Lady of Perpetual Discipline and take a few rulers to the right knuckles.

Or, perhaps the sting of fines, parenting classes and other acts of penance.

Hear that fiendish chortling in the distance? The Times reports it could be coming from teachers, happy to see the bony finger of judgment point in another direction for a change.

They're feeling a mite persecuted lately, The Times reports, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declaring open warfare on his state's teachers' union and politicians across the land slamming teachers for underachieving students.

Now, The Times reports, politicians are turning their hairy eyeballs on parents.

"Any kind of problem in an academic setting, and people blame the teachers," Indiana state Rep. Linda Lawson tells the newspaper. "They say things like 'If teachers were more responsive, didn't have the summers off, worked an eight-hour day.' But no one looks at the parents."

Well, they're looking now.

Lawson introduced a bill requiring parents to spend three hours each semester volunteering either in the school building or at a school-related function. She framed it as an anti-bullying measure, even though it would apply to all parents, not just the parents of bullies.

She tells The Times she wants to increase parent-teacher interaction.

"Teachers were telling us: 'We can only do so much in the classroom. We have no control over what happens with these kids at home,' " Florida state Rep. Kelli Stargel tells The Times.

Her remedy? Grade parents on their involvement in their kids' education, then post their grades on the kids' report cards. Uh-oh. Looks like someone may get his Xbox taken away. Sorry, Dad. Sucks being you.

Grading parents. Yeah, that ought to boost teachers' popularity.

"We don't feel that the teacher having to grade the parent is really going to improve that relationship," Cindy Gerhardt, the president of the Florida Parent-Teacher Association, tells The Times.

Alaska doesn't bother with grading parents. It hits them where they live -- right in the wallet. Parents get fined when their kids are habitually tardy or absent. And parents in California can face misdemeanor criminal charges for similar offenses.

Americans love to punish people, Diane Ravitch, an education historian and the author of "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," tells The Times.

"If we could just find the right person to punish," she says. "Punish the teachers. Punish the parents. It's Dickensian. What we should be doing instead is giving a helping hand."

Jesus might agree with that. From John 9:1-3:

"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him: 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.' "

Modern translation: "Geez, why do you people always have to have someone to blame?"

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