Monday, June 14, 2010

Miss a P/T Conference and Go to Jail?

I just read this article in the Detroit News. Wayne County Prosecutor wants to put a law on the books to force jail time on parents that do not attend Parent/Teacher conferences. The City of Detroit is in Wayne County and there are serious problems with the school system there and other suburbs. Here are my thoughts on jail time for no show parents. Please feel free to share yours in the comment section of the post.

I'm blessed to teach in a school district where parent involvement is high. One of the biggest complaints is that parents are too involved, if that's possible. Despite the high involvement of parents at my school, I can't nail down the parents I need to talk to. The students who are struggling or are behaving poorly have parents that refuse to meet or stay in communication. It's frustrating when you want to reach out to students and there is little to no support at home.

We have one Back to School Night in October at the High School. This is the only set time for parents to come by at night and go through their student's schedule and meet their teachers. We are given 17 minutes to explain the class, tell a joke and ensure that their children are safe in our hands. Sadly, I never get to meet the parents that I need to. The parents I have already sent emails to asking for support or information. I understand that everyone has different problems and coming to school to talk to a teacher might not high on their "to do" list, but that involvement can do wonders for a student.

A part of me says yes, jail time for parents that skip out on teacher meetings. Let's threaten them with jail time and force them to be involved in their kid's education. On top of that, let's fine those parents and send that money directly to the teachers they skip out on to make up for the lost time. That is a great way to get teachers to want to teach in struggling schools. Think of the revenue stream that could be created from delinquent parents. Steak dinners for all teachers!

I apologize for the biting sarcasm, but the idea is nice, but would not be helpful. Have we really come to the point where we need to mandate that parents take an interest in the education of their children? I realize that my frustration will continue as I teach students that have parents that don't give a damn. All that forces me to do is get more creative in reaching out to those students to hopefully stop the cycle. Nobody would every recommend fear and intimidation as the why to educate students, so why should we treat parents the same way? We need to get to the root of the problem as to why parents are disinterested. Is it because they lack an education as well? Is it because they work 3 jobs and are doing the best that they can? Is it because they are still kids themselves? Yes, there are even parents that just flat out don't give a damn. Whatever those reasons are, the teacher's job is to find a way to reach out to those students and make a difference because a teacher is all they have.

Ask yourself this question, do you want to meet with a parent that is being forced to sit across the table from you by a judge? Neither do I.


  1. I feel your pain. At most parent teacher conferences I rarely met the parents I really needed to see.

    Maybe you have it mandated that they read and follow the sites I have on my Parent-Teacher Conference/Communication page

  2. You know I could help but snicker as I read your post. If you work in an urban district, it is not uncommon to have a P/T conference day and not have anyone show. It this is what is expected.

    I don't know how I feel about this jail thing--we already do it here for truancy and it seems to work as long as our Parent Counselor is really on her job. Threats of jail time or a summons and these folks miraculously turn up at school. The students keep good attendance for month or so and then the cycle repeats.

    I like the idea, but then PERSONALLY i get tired of tracking down parents, like a bill collect. Seriously, calling every number, every relative until I get a call back. That gets old QUICKLY!

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  4. I agree with you completely. The best thing you said was that we are not supposed to motivate students with fear, so why motivate parents with fear? It makes no sense, and I definitely don't want to be sitting on the other side of that table when angry parents are forced to be there.

    I work with a lot of students who have "disinterested parents" and once I took the time to figure the kids out, very few parents didn't care about their child's education. Like you said, the reason I didn't see them at conferences or have trouble reaching them by phone or email is because they are busy working 3 jobs. They fel embarassed coming into a pretigious academic setting either because of their appearance or confidence level because they don't want to hear a speech on how bad their parenting is and how bad their children are.

    What I've found is that when I do get in touch with my presumed uninterested parents, I actually see a complete reversal. These tend to be my parents who care just as much if not more about their child's education because they don't want them to struggle in the ways that they do financially. But, because they're so busy trying to work 3 jobs to provide for their kids, they often miss important events and it is therefore reflected upon them as not caring.

    I think jail time is absolutley silly - not even something we should be questioning. The only way we are going to get parents to care about their child's education is to make our academic environment as safe for our parents as we try to make it for our students.

  5. Unfortunately for many of these parents, school was not a good time for them and it is so difficult for them to come into school, particularly if there is an issue with their child to be dealt with.

    It is always the ones you really need to see that never come. Is there a way your district can get these parents to school for a fun night that has nothing to do with their child? Just getting them in the door would be a start.


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