NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Jail Time And Fines For Parents Of Truants

December 6, 1999

One tactic being employed in an effort to raise students' school performance is to punish the parents of those who skip school. States across the nation are dusting off old truancy laws and enacting new ones to raise class attendance rates.

  • Crackdowns are being launched in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida and California.
  • In Detroit, 63,000 of the 180,000 public school students missed more than a month of classes last year.
  • Ohio's Senate has passed a bill that would punish truants and their parents -- and Virginia now has a law that would punish parents with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Last December, several counties in Florida decided parents of truants could be fined up to $500 and serve up to 60 days in jail.

Most states have had anti-truancy laws on the books for decades, but now they are increasingly being enforced.

But the punishment of parents disturbs the American Civil Liberties Union. "One person should not be held culpable for the infractions of another," Nadine Strossen, president of the group, asserts. "Kids are not the property of their parents, and the law should not treat them as such."

Nevertheless, many school administrators and teachers applaud the "get tough" policy. Officials say they have tried everything from revoking driver's licenses to having police round up students hanging out in shopping malls. But those initiatives haven't been altogether successful. They hope putting pressure on parents will achieve their attendance aims.

Source: Robyn Meredith, "Truants' Parents Face Crackdown Across the U.S.," New York Times, December 6, 1999.


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