The madness in Detroit continues:
The night Demarco Harris shot and killed a woman during a robbery on a Detroit street, his parents told police knocking on their door at 2 a.m. they didn’t know where their 12-year-old was.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that’s indicative of a larger issue in Detroit, where the lack of making parents accountable for their children partly is blamed on elevated truancy and dropout rates, as well as a recent rash of violent crimes involving teens.
Worthy has a new idea she hopes will fix the problem: Jail parents for up to three days for repeatedly missing scheduled parent-teacher conferences.
“I have seen that younger and younger children are committing more violent acts and we need to look at different approaches,” Worthy told reporters. “I know we need to try something different. We should not have to legislate this, but what we have been doing is not working.”
She’s still working on the details, but once her proposal is finished, she hopes to present it to county commissioners in August and persuade them to approve an ordinance. After that, she may take it to state legislators in Lansing.
To be sure, I like Kym Worthy. That is to say, I like certain ambitious approaches she takes in her practice, most notably: her role in bringing down Kwame Kilpatrick. She is a tough, spunky fighter who – in my opinion – is committed to helping restore Detroit to a greatness it once enjoyed. But this is sheer lunancy.
I’m all for calling for Detroit parents to be more actively engaged in their childrens’ education; especially considering how Detroit schools are falling well below national standards. For all the grief we give to under-resourced schools and under-paid teachers for the performances of our young people, parents should shoulder some of the responsibilities. And with Detroit’s unemployment rate being close to 14%, a lot of parents in the D aren’t doing much of anything else, so investing time in their childrens’ futures makes sense.
But the fact remains: there are still parents who ARE working to make ends meet. Many of these families – I suspect – are working hourly jobs which don’t allow them the luxury of taking time off for parent-teacher conferences. I’ve seen people who go to work sick, hurt, and fatigued because the alternative to missing days is to not make money or to lose jobs outright. So should punishments for missing school meetings be attached to parents like this, the economic damages could be irreparably damning. If a working parent is sentenced to jail, fined, or forced to perform community services for three days – three days that they aren’t excused by employers – they could come back to work only to find a pink slip waiting for them.
Then, there’s the obvious issue of trying to legislate certain frowned upon, yet entirely legal social behaviors. Mirroring the ridiculous punishments in place for wearing sagging pants in Flint, Worthy’s proposal falls in line with other futile measures to use jail, fines, etc. as a solution to social issues. Even if the proposal passes and parents succumb to legally-enforcable pressure to start attending these meetings, that alone won’t make a problem child become a model child. If the student has no interest in school, no amount of legislation is going to engage them. What kind of new law will come out that? One that forces students to show interest in school? Sheesh.
As I have with some of her other projects, I applaud Kym Worthy for her efforts. For all the talk I hear about the Detroit’s decline, the amount of action taking place to counteract that decline is dismal. But this is a very dangerous road to take in curbing these problems. If not thought out better, moves like this could very easily add fuel to the raging firing currently burning the D to the ground.