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Prosecutor proposes jail time for parents who miss teacher conferences

By Deborah Brunswick, CNN
  • Parents of some children in Detroit schools could be sent to jail for three days
  • Prosecutor Kym Worthy presented the proposal to the Detroit City Council
  • The proposal has met with mixed responses

New York (CNN) -- A county prosecutor in Michigan is proposing a law that could punish parents with jail time for repeatedly missing their children's parent-teacher conferences.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy introduced a proposal Tuesday at a Detroit City Council meeting that would require a parent to attend at least one parent-teacher conference a year or face up to three days in jail, according Maria Miller, Worthy's press secretary.

The proposal, which Worthy has also sent to the state legislature and the Wayne County Commission, would exempt parents whose children are performing exceptionally well or who are actively engaged with their children's teachers. Parents who are unable to travel for health reasons also would be exempt.

So far the proposal has met with mixed responses.

Detroit Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown applauded Worthy's idea, saying he would support legislation.

"It's child abuse when your child is failing in school and you're not involved, because you are strapping that child to a life of poverty," Brown told CNN.

He noted, however, that jailing parents for missing school meetings might not be practical and suggested altering the punishment. "If it's not jail maybe it's something else, but we've got to do something to get the parents' attention," he said.

Daniel Lessard, a member of the Livonia Public Schools board, said that he agrees with the need to get parents involved, but called the idea "the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

"You can't legislate parental involvement. I think this proposal is purely political and a real neat way to get your name in the paper," Lessard said.

Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox, R-Livonia, blasted the proposal because she feels that Worthy has bigger problems she needs to deal with first. "Kym Worthy has a record of complaining that her office doesn't have enough funding to prosecute violent crimes, and now she wants to put parents in jail. It's despicable," Cox said.

According to the proposed ordinance, teachers would work to accommodate parents' schedules by setting up conferences at any time during the day. Additionally, any parent convicted under the law would have their sentences delayed to give them another chance to attend a meeting. If they do, the charges would be dropped.

At present there is no legislation pending in the state House, County Commission or City Council.

Kym Worthy was not available for comment Thursday.