Should Parents Be Punished for Kids Missing School?

Denver mother Katrina Johnson at Truancy Court with 16yr old Quishona

By JuJuBe (Joanna)

 I understand that education is an important thing. I truly do. And, yes, I agree that parents need to take responsibility for the education of their children. I am not going to sit here and argue about how the public school system is not, in my opinion, the best option for the education of children. I am not going to talk about the fact that children in our public schools are learning what basically amounts to a bunch of lies. that they are being brainwashed into believing that only rich white folks have historically done anything worth discussing.

Those are topics that have been beaten to death. No, today I want to discuss how far the law should be able to go when it comes to enforcing the idea of mandatory education for children. I want to discuss the idea of holding a parent responsible for the actions of their child. This little gem is from West Virginia:
State Sen. Erik Wells, D-7th District, plans to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session, which begins Wednesday, that would revoke the driver’s licenses of parents whose children miss too many days of school. Although Wells said he won’t bet it will be one of the approximately 200 bills of 2,000 that will become law this session, he does hope it will increase awareness about the importance of education and hold parents accountable for the actions of their children.

On Friday, Wells told West Virginia reporters the bill will call for revoking the driver’s licenses of individuals whose children are inexcusably absent for 10 or more days of the school year. Before revoking the license, the bill would stipulate that a parent would receive a warning when the child has been absent five times, he added.

Wells said he doesn’t doubt that if the bill is passed, it would be challenged, and that he’s not aware of any other states having similar legislation. “I think responsibility has to start somewhere and it is the parents’ responsibility as parents to put the welfare of their child first, and one of those aspects is to get the child to school,” Wells said.Source

I have a serious problem with the idea of “punishing” a parent by revoking their driver’s license. First of all, often a parent does not have control over whether or not their child attends school. A child WILL find a way to get out of attending school WITHOUT parental approval if they really want to. I should know, I did it all of the time as a child. My mother would send me off to school, and somehow I would end up not attending a single class. I would find a way to get as far from that school as humanly possible.

Some kids do not show up a school because they simply do not like having to attend classes. But, sometimes excessive absences from school indicate a deeper problem. For some kids, all of the threats and punishment in the world cannot get them through that classroom door. And holding parents responsible for their child’s absences is an ineffective and irresponsible response.

Revoking the license of a parent does nothing to address the reasons why a child is not showing up at school. At least, not in most cases. A parent can beg and plead with a child to attend his/her classes, all to no avail. He can cajole, threaten and punish. But, that will not get that kid’s butt into the desk chair. Rather than use punitive measures directed at a parent, the school should be addressing the problems that are keeping the child out of the classroom in the first place. Nine times out of ten, they will find that the parent has little to no influence on what their child does once he walks out of the door in the morning.

Unless a parent is willing to walk their child into the school building, and travel from class to class with him throughout the day, it is EXTREMELY difficult for a parent to force a child who is having serious issues at school into attending classes. Intervention is required to identify the forces keeping the child away, and revoking a parent’s license does absolutely nothing to ameliorate the problems the child might be experiencing in school.

Not only that, but revoking the license of a parent can have extremely severe consequences for the entire family. In many areas, public transportation systems are virtually nonexistent. So, if you take away the parent’s ability to drive, you could be taking away his ability to support his family. If there is no adequate public transportation system, and a parent’s license is revoked, how will they get to their job? How will they attend a training program, or college classes? And, what will that parent do if there is a medical situation that requires them to drive to a doctor’s office or a hospital?

No, these ideas are short sighted and damaging. It does NOTHING to address the very real problems that a child might be experiencing that keep him out of school. Nor does it recognize that many parents are unable to control what a child does once he is out of their sight. Most parents do the best they can to make sure their child is adequately educated. We cannot hold them responsible if their child decides, for whatever reason, that he does not want to take advantage of the opportunities available. Nor can we ignore the fact that there are serious issues at school that sometimes keep children away. Until those issues are addressed, all of the sanctions in the world will have no impact at all. And it would be extremely unfair to punish a parent who is doing the best they know how, simply because he is not successful at getting his child to attend classes.