Family Matters

Skip Your Parent-Teacher Conference, Go to Jail?

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Show up for your child’s parent-teacher conference or go to jail: the choice could be yours in Michigan, if a county prosecutor has her way.

Just as parent-teacher conference season is shifting into high gear in schools across the country, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is championing a law that would require parents to participate in at least one parent-teacher conference a year or spend up to three days in the slammer. (More on “Mompetition”: Why You Just Can’t Make Mom Friends)

I love parent-teacher conferences; I get to talk about one of my favorite subjects in the world — my kids — with someone who gets to spend more time with them during the day than I do. But apparently not everyone is as fond of the annual or semi-annual tete-a-tetes. Even in my daughter’s well-to-do elementary school in Seattle, the teacher has had to send multiple e-mails nagging recalcitrant parents to schedule a meeting with her.

Of course, there may be legitimate reasons why parents couldn’t make a conference, and Worthy acknowledges that. Those whose children are excelling or are otherwise in close communication with their children’s teachers — as well as parents with medical issues that preclude travel — would be exempt. (More on Health Check-Up: Women & Health)

In the end, there is a grace note, of sorts. Moms and pops convicted of parent-teacher truancy would get one last chance to make things right before swapping business suits for prisoner garb. If, after being convicted, they schedule and attend a conference, the sentence would disappear — kind of like this proposal is likely to do.

Because even those who support the notion of getting parents more engaged in their children’s education feel imprisonment might be a tad overzealous. Or worse. Daniel Lessard, a member of the Livonia Public Schools board, told CNN the proposal was “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” (More on Do Parents Discriminate Against Their Own Chubby Children?)

We already mandate that parents must buckle children into carseats, make baby bikers wear helmets and attend school — or a homeschool equivalent. But can we really legislate parental involvement?

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