By Samantha Richmond, CFCC Student Fellow 2012-2013
Every Wednesday afternoon, mentors, professors, and Student Fellows from the Center for Families, Children, and the Courts at the University of Baltimore School of Law meet to speak about our weekly Truancy Court Program (TCP) sessions. We discuss ways in which we can prevent truancy. Over the past few weeks, a question has been raised as to who is responsible for the students’ truant behavior. Should parents or teachers be held responsible for their students’ absenteeism and academic performance?
Parents are the ones caring for the children at home and making sure they attend school each morning, while teachers ensure that students learn at the appropriate grade level and are in class each day. If a teacher realizes that a student has been absent excessively, perhaps they should report that to a higher authority who could contact the student’s guardian. In our weekly meetings, some have argued that teachers should not be held responsible. Teachers should be concerned only with teaching the students who are present that day. I believe, however, that if parents do not encourage their children to attend school, the teacher is the next best person to look out for a student’s education and future.
In the New York Times article “Whose Failing Grade Is It?,” Lisa Belkin explains how several bills have been proposed in Florida that would punish parents when their children had excessive absences. Belkin believes that parents should be targeted for their child’s absences. By looking at schools that have success rates for students in both attendance and graduation, it is clear that parents are a contributing factor. Belkin suggests that schools with low success rates should focus on gaining parent involvement. One bill proposed in Florida requires parents to spend three hours volunteering throughout a semester at a school-related function. Based on my experience with the TCP, I do not believe parents would be willing to take three hours a semester to devote to their child’s school. We encourage parents to attend our ten minute session once a week to discuss their child’s truant behavior, and I have yet to have one parent attend one of my sessions. Another bill introduced in Florida has parents receiving a letter grade depicting the parent’s involvement that semester on their child’s report card. If parents are not interested from the start, I do not believe placing a grade on their child’s report card will change their mentality.
Parents are the best role models for students. Rather than punish parents, we need to find ways to instill in parents an interest in their child’s education. I do not believe we should have to force parents to play a role in their child’s education, but it should be something they choose to do. The TCP provides parents with that exact opportunity–the chance to meet with judges, mentors, school personnel, a social worker, and Student Fellows to provide the family with appropriate resources to ensure their child receives a proper education and has the opportunity to succeed in the future.