When a minor commits a crime, he is held responsible for it. Sure, there are different consequences than if the crime were perpetrated by an adult, but he is still held responsible all the same.
Just as is the case for adults however, consequences for illicit actions don’t seem to have an impacting influence on whether some teens do a dirty deed or not.
The question is, should legislation regarding crimes commited by minors pull parents into the mix? If a teen does something illegal, he will be punished by the law. But should his parents also have to suffer the consequences of his actions?
The mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana seems to think so.
In his state of the city address recently, Mayor Greg Ballard asked the audience to recall a couple tragic incidents. A 15-year-old was left in critical condition after one shooting, and a 17-year-old was shot in the foot twice in a separate shooting only a block away. Both occurred near the same Indianapolis mall.
Saddened, but also disgusted, by the shootings, Ballard prepared to shock his listeners. "I simply will not let a few wannabe thugs infect the heart of our city," he began.
"It’s time for some straight talk to the very small group of parents who see fit to drop their kids off at places like the mall each weekend and sometimes wait until late at night to pick them up," the mayor stated.
How does he plan to solve the problem of idle teens who can smell the allure of bad behavior from a mile away?
"Parents can be held liable and fined for the actions of their children," Ballard delcared as people in the crowd undoubtedly gawked.
He went on to assert that parents cannot treat the mall as a daycare center, nor can they rely on the Metro Police to babysit their children.
"We are losing money because of the deployment of officers to this area. And what this complaint will seek to do is recover that cost from the parents who are negligent, who don’t know where their kids are," said Helen Marchal, city prosecutor.
The logic behind the mayor’s decision makes sense. If you fine parents when their kid does something against the law, perhaps they’ll pay more attention and prevent it from happening again. But what about the trouble-making teens whose parents are already breathing down their necks? Should these aware parents be punished, even when they’ve done everything they could to steer their children in the right direction?
One Indianapolis educator thinks not. "I’ve been a teacher for over 40 years and I’ve seen an awful lot of students who have very conscientious parents and who make bad choices," said Sylvia Hyde, a teacher and parent. "I think holding parents financially responsible almost reduces the accountability of the youth and I think that’s a dangerous place to go."
But other parents disagree and think their tax dollars should not be paying for teens to misbehave if they have perfectly capable parents.
"If you have the means, I think you should be responsible as well," remarked parent Ted Bilski. "If your child was incarcerated your insurance should cover them, not the city. Our tax money should not have to go for that type of care."