Hold parents more accountable

Recently the people of the state of Idaho overturned three laws commonly referred to as “The Luna Laws.” I believe that our current education system, along with the rest of the country, needs to be changed or reformed in many ways. One way that I never see addressed is that of the responsibility and accountability of the parent or guardian of the student. I sincerely believe that this is the most important aspect of “reforming” education.

I have watched the disintegration of what used to be called the nuclear family over the past 40-50 years and along with it the decline in the academic performance of our young people. Throughout the years, a pattern that is almost universal has developed. The student with motivated and involved parents is a motivated and high achieving student. The parents attend open houses and parent conferences; contact teachers regarding ways to ensure that their child succeeds; stress to their children the value and importance of education, and support the teachers and administration of the school.

On the other side of that coin is the low motivated and low achieving student. His or her parents, if they are even present, are rarely if ever heard from; do not respond to attempts to contact them regarding the progress or behavior of their child; do not stress the value and importance of education to their child, and often blame the teacher and administration for the problems related to the child.

I have seen the classroom environment deteriorate to the point where the teacher is spending more time dealing with the student who is disruptive and/or disrespectful than teaching those students who are there to learn. I have experienced students, who I refer to as willful failures, who make absolutely no attempt to learn, and many times the parents, if you can contact them, ignore the situation. Teachers are already basically being told to deal with it. Teachers are being expected to be the surrogate parent as well as the academic instructor. Being that surrogate parent is taking more and more of the time away from the academic learning.

The No. 1, most important, responsibility of a parent is to raise and educate their child. Failure to do so, in my mind, is a form of child neglect. With all due respect, I do not believe that much will change with regard to academic excellence until parents are forced to be responsible and accountable for the effort and behavior of their children. Contrary to the recent public perception, and because of the emphasis on the low performing population, there are significant numbers of Idaho students who are high achieving and educationally successful.

I know of students attending Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities. Those students are not the students who are bringing down the test scores. The students who are the bulk of the low performing students are those who do not master the fundamentals in the early education and elementary years. These students are, unfortunately, often socially promoted; many times because of parental refusal to allow the holding back until mastery is achieved.

Although simplistic in its idea, but undoubtedly complicated to enact and enforce, I would create a law to require parents or guardians to be responsible and accountable for the effort and behavior of their child. Link it to the child neglect laws. The law would basically be as follows:

  • If a child does not come to class prepared (having books, paper and pencil, homework, etc…) or is disruptive and/or disrespectful, or does not try his or her best on assignments and tests, the parents are called to come and pick up the child for the day. The child can return the next day, but if it happens again, the parent gets called again, and every time until the child gets the message. If the parent does not come and get the child, law enforcement is called and a child neglect report is taken.

How long do you think that it would take before most parents would impress upon their child that the child had better get with the program, because mommy and daddy will lose their job if they have to continually be called to pick up Tommy or Susie? If the parents are receiving welfare, etc…. hold back on those payments. If you force parents to be accountable for their children, the majority of the problems in public education would disappear.

Why do you think private and charter schools are so successful? Parents are involved, accountable, and responsible for the effort and behavior of their children.

Who would vote for a law of this type? Parents who are tired of seeing their children in a learning environment where their learning is interrupted and taken by kids who don’t do what is right.

Who would vote against this law? The adults who know that they would have to begin to do their job or suffer consequences.

I believe that we are already headed for a three tiered education system. The first two tiers (Private and Charter schools) will be for those parents and students who are motivated and value education. The third tier, and somewhat what we have already, will be the public schools for the remainder of the students and parents who don’t care or value education.

The motivated parents and children are easy. What is the plan when it all washes out and the public schools are primarily full of kids with parents who don’t care?

Again, with all due respect, I do not believe that the public school achievement scores will significantly improve unless the parents of the low motivated and discipline problem students are forced to be responsible and accountable for their children. I would welcome the opportunity to become involved in improving this situation as it relates to the education of the children of Idaho.


  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Mr. DePriest asks, “Why do you think private and charter schools are so successful?”

    They are? Says who? By what measure?

    You are begging the question by assuming the truth of a premise you haven’t yet proved, taking as a given that private schools and charter schools are successful in comparison to traditional public schools. If you to prove a causal relationship between how private/charter schools operate and their alleged success, you must first prove that they are, indeed, successful.

    • Josh Ritchie

      Here is an interesting article about a study that found that the differences in student success between private schools, traditional public schools and public charter schools mostly disappear when you control for family characteristics. Family background was found to be a larger predictor of student success then the school type.

      That mirrors my experiences over 11 years as a private college recruiter followed by 6 years working at an alternative high school. I was surprised at how similar the two groups of students were and amazed at how different their families were.


  • Anne Liebenthal

    I don’t think I know a single parent who would have a clean police record if such a law existed. Some of the best parents of students who suffer autism, ADHD, death of a loved one, divorce, cancer, a dead-beat parent, past molestation by a cousin, online bullying, etc. would either be fired for their own poor performance and attendance at work or would have the suffering child put in a foster home. There just aren’t enough jails nor foster homes to accommodate such a law. Many of my colleagues (and certainly myself) would lose our positions because of a record of child abuse/neglect would be on our background check because our kid couldn’t get his antiquated locker to open.

    Terrible parents often produce wonderful students and wonderful parents often produce terrible students. At least on my planet. Absent minded students appear in literature from all cultures and centuries. Einstein’s parents would have served life sentences.

  • Ed DePriest

    I am not talking about “absent minded” students, who every now and then forget. I am looking for a way to deal with the habitual behavior problem, or the willful failure.
    I know that this is not the perfect solution to parents who do not take responsibility for the effort and behavior, but something has to be done to address this aspect of student performance. These two initial responses are typical. No, it can’t be done. Well, I am open for some suggestions?
    Education is a triangle. The student, the school, and the parent. If one does not do his or her part, then success is less likely to occur. In my experience, as I say in my commentary, a large population of the students who are not meeting the expected standards come from homes where the parents don’t do their part in the triangle.
    Teachers are not surrogate parents. Teachers are not discipline specialists. Teachers are in the classroom to teach content.

    • Anne Liebenthal

      Open for suggestions? Let them eat cake.

    • Sheri Thomas

      Dear Ed;
      So many flaws and the solution is not the parents.
      Here are a few suggestions:
      1. Only allow students to enter Kindergarten after they take an entrance test. It is often said that younger students struggle more and act out more.
      2. Do not allow the students behavior to get them “out” of school, this means more attention to the child and less schooling. Just remove them from the audience.
      3. Test for learning differences. Often they can be so subtle but cause grief to many and this is an area that parents cannot help them with as they do not have the means.

      Everyone deserves a good education and not all children are out of the same cookie cutter. Since students who have “habitual behavior problems” and “willful failure” will always be there no matter the parental influence; it is necessary for the school to have good counselors and administration to make a plan for the child. Watch the movie “Freedom Writers” to see that a teacher can make a difference and that is why you should be in the profession. You cannot and will not create accountable parents nor should you that is out of your jurisdiction. The children should always be considered the victims of circumstance whose behavior is to grab attention that they are craving for.
      Also note that with all of the chemicals in our food, water, air and our homes, it is no wonder there are not more behavior and learning issues.
      Just an FYI, many of the charter and private schools experience the same issues but they pay their teachers more as well as limit class sizes to make working with the students a more palatable part of the job.

      • Michael Mendive

        Dear Sheri,

        Freedom writers is a great movie. The teacher is one in a million. In fact, that’s why they made a movie about her.
        I teach in a school with nearly 90% low SES students. The difficulties our students face is in the personal lives is disheartening. It truly is no wonder that they don’t pay attention in school when they all they can think about is how scary it was when the police kicked in their front door the night before.
        i agree with you that there will always be challenging students, but I disagree with what I perceive to be your theme in that their is nothing government/society can do about it. I believe that there are 2 crucially important things that need to be done to improve American education.
        1. Class sizes need to be reduced. I think Americans will simply need to buck up and pay for it if we are to improve the state of American education. You pointed to this as well, but for anyone else who is reading I will elaborate on the benefit. In my years as a teacher I can usually expect a mean class size of about 30 students in my 5th grade class. Also from my experience, I will have about 5 kids who tend to fit Ed’s description of “habitual behavior problems” or “willful failure.” Simple math with tell you that will likely only reduce my number of trouble students to 4 or maybe 3, but the second thing addresses the same problem.
        2. I do think that legislation for parents is required, but I don’t see having them criminally charged as appropriate. Rather, I would like to see a system similar to European systems where students are required to meet proficiency to be promoted to the next grade. If students don’t meet proficiency on the end of the year exam, parents are required to pay for a summer school program. I know teachers are shuttering at the idea of increasing the stakes for students, but I also think we need to stop being so afraid of hurting a kids feelings in the United States. Kids need to get tough because the world is getting tougher and tougher and they won’t be able to compete if they don’t learn to overcome their failures at a younger age. Now this plan would not only require an act of congress but perhaps an act of God as well. From my Ed. law class I am pretty sure that it would require an amendment to the constitution as it would be seen as a limit to a “free” education. It would also require either the state tax commission or the IRS to collect the money.
        I didn’t say it would be a popular plan, but I think these are the two most important things that need to happen to improve American Education. There is a whole list of 2nd tier things that need to happen as well, but some of them are happening here and nationally like CCSS, Project GLAD, SIOP, and MTI.

        • Jada Collingwood

          Well, I am one parent who would gladly pay to have their child go to summer school if needed. There is something you’re not taking to account here though, it’s a law called No Child Left Behind. I have tried to have my son held back in second grade because he was not meeting the core academic goals. Guess what, I was told by the school that becuase of the No Child Left Behind law, they couldn’t. I read the law and my thoughts were that it was talking about making sure the kids met the goals needed to pass to the next grade and not be left behind (as in passing without meeting those goals). The CCSS is meant to purposely dumb down our education system. It definitely was NOT written up after doing research, consulting with parents or teachers as our government has said it was. The kids are being pushed to learn things at younger ages than they are capable of mentally handling. Their brains are not developed enough for this kind of stuff. There may be a few exceptions to that but consult with a good psychologist and ask them if a 5-6 year old child is mentally ready to handle things such as geometry, fractions and many of the other things that are being shoved in their brains at that age. We are people for crying out loud! Not robots meant to regurgitate information when someone asks.

  • Ed DePriest

    That’s constructive!

  • Mark Goldschmidt

    Parents or guardians should be the most important component in the education of their children. Yet, the government has effectively shifted the responsibility solely onto the backs of teachers. I think that teachers should bear some responsibility for the education of students, but not all the responsibility.

    Teachers are held accountable for actions of students that are entirely out of their sphere of influence. Can a teacher make a student do his or her homework, study for tests, come to class with necessary tools, get enough sleep, care about his or her future enough to actually try when he or she does do their homework, or come to school on a regular basis?

    According to legislatures, the answer seems to be yes to each of these points. Seriously? Politicians are afraid to address the parental issue, I fear, because parents can vote.

    How many parents of the continually failing student, were continually failing students themselves? How many of these parents value education?

    Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules.

    I propose that the parents of students who have a pattern of failure be made to pay a fine for each quarter that their child fails. If that student has a viable explanation as to why he or she is failing, such a having been tested and shown to be deficient, then the parent does not need to be fined.

    I am willing to take my share of the responsibility for educating students, but I should be sharing that responsibility with the only constant in a student’s life, his or her parents or guardians. If teachers can be punished for poor performance, why not parents?

    • M. Anne Liebenthal

      If only parents and guardians WERE constant at present. In certain fortunate communities that is the norm, but decreasingly so. It is societal breakdown we face, and the historians tell us there’s nothing new about that.

  • Jada Collingwood

    WOW! Talk about blanket statements! Maybe people should start looking to their government as to why there are a lot of these issues. Let me tell you about my personal experience with the fabulous public schol system. My saon has had an IEP for two years, We purchased workbooks to supplement his classroom work. We spent countless hours working with him. He also received 2 YEARS of extra help through the school system. Guess what! He still struggles with most of the same things. My son has short term memory issues, processing weaknesses, ADHD, CAPD, ODD and sensory issues. So you tell me how it’s my fault my son still struggles! According to my Dept. of Ed in my county, it’s not a big deal for a child to be a couple years behind in school and that is straight from the mouth of the Dept. of Ed themselves. It is people spouting garbage such as this that further compunds the problems. Now I find out that my son has been perviously told he was stupid by a TEACHER and yelled at that he isn’t trying by a TEACHER. Let me ask you this Mr. DePriest, are you a parent? Furthermore, are you perfect in every way? I can absoultely GUARANTEE you are NOT perfect because no one is.

    • Evea jackson

      This discussion was not directed at parents of students with learning differences or disabilities. The students Mr. DePriest is talking about are the ones that are interfering with your child’s education. He is talking about students who will not attempt any tasks, who shout out and disrupt, pick on students, and make fun of the ones who are participating appropriately.

      I am sorry you have had a bad experience, but know you are not alone. We must also teach our students how to deal with negative people, as they are a fact of life, throughout our lifetimes.

  • sharon fisher

    “Parents who are tired of seeing their children in a learning environment where their learning is interrupted and taken by kids who don’t do what is right.”

    For what it’s worth, I’m one of these parents, but I think this proposed law is a crock. If parents aren’t taking responsibility for their kids, passing a law won’t make them do it. And threatening parents with losing their jobs as a constructive technique? Some of these kids are taking food from the Food Bank home for the weekend to be able to eat. How is getting their parents fired useful?