State Sen. Anthony Williams has reintroduced the Parent Accountability Bill.
The bill, which was introduced last year, would hold parents accountable for the conduct of their children. In some cases, parents could be fined or even face criminal charges if they are found to be parentally negligent.
While the bill was the topic of several public hearings last year, it did not come up for a vote. Williams acknowledges some people might have concerns.
“There is controversy about legislating any person so there is a concern that we would criminalize the behavior of a parent,” said Williams.
Williams said he understands such concerns but says they are unwarranted.
“The reality is that we aren’t going to criminalize or haul someone in front of a judge,” he said. The bill would, however, be a means of addressing more serious causes of parental neglect.
“This bill really relates to extreme behavior by children who come to school and are disruptive to the process in some criminal form,” said Williams.
Disruptive behavior would be acts of violence, assaulting teachers, taking drugs or weapons to school.
Williams said the attack of a teacher by students and their parents led to writing the bill.
He noted in some cases, the child’s behavior was encouraged by the parent or the child failed to be disciplined by the parent.
On other occasions, parents have attacked teachers.
“There is a history, unfortunately, of assaults on teachers in the district,” said Williams. “It wasn’t so much just an annoyance.
“There are behaviors we have seen that are sometimes supported by parents, either because they decided to encourage that behavior or instruct the child to behave in that manner. That behavior would be criminalized and the parents held accountable for the conduct of the children.”
The first charge would be a misdemeanor, according to the senator.
“What we are saying that if you [the parent] don’t know how to be a parent because no one taught you how to be a parent and you think it’s okay to smoke weed with your child, or to have guns around your child, or you think its okay to attack a teacher because they discipline you, well, we’ll have a diversion program,” he said.