Detroit — 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.
It’s unlikely to quickly become an ordinance because it would probably be challenged in court; civil libertarians say it may be outside the law. Even some teachers, who often spend several hours waiting for parents who don’t show up for the conferences, are skeptical.
“I understand the prosecutor’s concern, but jail time?” said Detroit middle school teacher Ann Crowley.
Under her plan, Wayne County parents would be required to pick a time and day to attend one parent-teacher conference a year. If that conference is missed, the school would send out a letter to set up another within 14 days. If the second is missed, parents get a letter about sanctions, which could include up to three days in jail.