Locking up parents for their kids' bad behavior?

A fair number of you probably don’t want to own up to it in public but I’d wager you’ll privately admit it’s true. When you see some seriously poorly behaved and even abusive kids you think to yourself, somebody needs to lock up that child’s parents. Personally, last time I was on a plane where some obnoxious brat was kicking the back of my seat I was definitely ready to send his mom up for a five to ten year stretch in Attica. But now, if you happen to live in North Tonawanda, New York, your wish might come true.

A new law went into effect on October 1st which supposedly will see the parents of repeat offending minors charged, fined and possibly spending a couple of weeks in jail. If this sounds too good to be true, well… it probably is. (Associated Press)

Members of the North Tonawanda Common Council hope the new law will put a stop to bullying by holding parents accountable for their children’s actions. Parents could be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail if twice in a 90-day period their child violates the city’s curfew or any other city law, including bullying.

North Tonawanda officials say the law is geared toward minors who repeatedly bully other children in public places.

This law comes after four teens were reportedly kicked out of North Tonawanda Middle School for alleged bullying.

First of all, my hat is off to the North Tonawanda Common Council. This law may wind up being completely unconstitutional and you’ll be bankrupted by legal fees the first time you try to put one of those parents in a cell, but gosh darn it.. somebody had to at least try. The world needs people willing to charge forth and tilt at windmills even if the cause is futile. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Sadly, I’m guessing that this will never fly if they attempt to enforce it. Children are the responsibility of their parents to be sure, and if the parents can somehow be found to have knowingly supplied them with resources to commit a crime they might be liable on some sort of conspiracy charge. There are such things as parental accountability laws which parents can run afoul of, but they seem to be fairly specific. These could involve kids who engage in computer crime when the parents supplied them with the computer and internet access and didn’t monitor their behavior or failing to secure firearms in the house when the youth grabs a gun and commits a crime.

But if your kid is just an obnoxious jerk who is bullying other children around town because you failed to discipline them and teach them right from wrong, that seems like a tough case to make in court. Particularly if it’s something where the child can be charged either as a juvenile or an adult, then the old personal responsibility barrier seems to be raised.

One possibility in the North Tonawanda situation is the violation of the town curfew. If it’s outside of school hours, I suppose the parents might be held liable for that one, but jail seems a bit excessive in terms of what the courts will normally allow. But then again, maybe this is more of a symbolic measure on the part of a frustrated town council that’s trying to send a message to parents to get their little monsters under control.

Either way… best of luck to them. It’s at least worth a shot.