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Mississippi parent grading bill is misguided

Some Mississippi legislators are clearly misguided with their latest plans to pass a law to improve our children's future.

Oh if it were only that easy.

If it were the case, solving America's future would be easy.

Concerned over children having babies? No problem, just pass a law.

Want children to respect adults more? Bring in the lawmakers; they'll handle it in no time.

Worried about our teenagers using illicit drugs or abusing alcohol? No problem, the Mississippi Legislature can pass a few simple laws making it wrong. No, wait, that's already happened hasn't it, and we see how well that worked.

Seriously, the lawmakers behind a new bill working through the Legislature rightfully understand that parent involvement, or more specifically a lack of it, is a big factor in many children who perform poorly in schools.

Pointing out the problem is the easy part. Solving it is much more difficult. Perhaps we should give the lawmakers pushing for passage of House Bill 4, dubbed the Parent Involvement and Accountability Act, some credit for trying something, anything, to find a solution.

Unfortunately, they've not found one that makes sense yet.

The bill aimed ostensibly at helping students in sub-par school districts would have teachers grade the parents.

That logic is about as sound as the folks who believe more restrictive gun laws will thwart crime and terrorism.

Laws don't stop criminals from obtaining firearms illegally because, well, they're criminals.

And as much as it may seem on the surface to be a good thing, grading parents of students isn't going to help improve their parenting or likely their involvement in the lives of their children.

As the head of the McLaurin Elementary PTA said, the school of approximately 750 students has roughly eight PTA members.

First, all of those parents who are not involved in the PTA aren't inherently bad parents. Some simply cannot make the meetings due to work or family obligations.

Obviously some of those absent are not heavily involved in their children's education. For those parents, clearly education isn't important to them. If it were, their parental performance wouldn't be in question in the first place.

Besides, it's quite likely these parents were not good students in their own school days.

As simple as the problem seems -- simply forcing parents to become more involved in their children's lives -- in America, we cannot force such things any more than we can make a common state religion or require residents to pray.

What we can do is begin to hold parents of young people more accountable when their children commit criminal acts. Punishing the parents when young children are caught in possession of weapons or having committed violent acts may help curb the problem long-term.

And perhaps forcing young parents who are on public assistance to participate in basic parenting classes would help matters a bit.

At the least the process may give those parents some early exposure to tried-and-true parenting measures that would help their children be more conducive to learning when they arrive at school.

In the end though, to stop the cycle of bad parents raising children to become bad parents, some kind of outside intervention will have to occur. Over the past few years, that's been tossed to teachers and school administrators to do. But perhaps a more radical approach is necessary. Maybe in the state's failing or struggling schools, the school years need to change to eliminate summer break and so many of the long holidays, so those in need of more help educationally will get it and the structure that likely is missing when they're not in school.

That may be a crazy idea, but it's certainly no more crazy than thinking giving mom and dad a "D" on parenting is going to effect real change in the lives of our most at risk youth.

Kevin Cooper, publisher of The Natchez Democrat, can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.coopernatchezdemocrat.com.

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