posted by Karen Czapanskiy
Much to the relief of many parents whose children have diabetes, the California Supreme Court ruled recently in American Nurses Ass’n v. Torlakson that insulin shots can be administered by school personnel who volunteer and get trained for the job. School nurses, the court ruled, are not required under state law. That’s a good thing for the kids who attend the 95% of California public schools that have no fulltime school nurse. It’s good for their parents as well, since some schools were telling parents to come to school to give their kids their shots, something most employed parents had difficulty doing without upsetting their employers.
But to say, as the American Diabetes Association does, that the decision should make parents of diabetic kids feel confident that their child is in good hands at school is a bit of an overstatement. Whether they can get a routine shot of insulin isn’t the only health issue that kids with diabetes face during the school day. Some will face emergency health issues specific to diabetes, including hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Sometimes, it may take someone with medical training to know whether a shot should be administered at all or if it’s time to do something else, such as calling the ambulance. Diabetic kids also face health issues that other kids face. Like other kids, they fall off of climbing equipment and run into each other, and they may need to be assessed for concussions. Like other kids, they may get too hot when their team is practicing in hot weather, and someone with training will know best whether to get emergency medical care. Like other kids, they may get sick at school and need to be assessed for whether they need an hour on a couch or a call to a parent. Just as important, someone needs to figure out if it’s time to sound the alert about a communicable disease at the school.
The California legislature apparently decided that school nurses aren’t necessary because of the expense. And indeed it may be difficult to justify spending money on nurses when paying for teachers sometimes seems like a luxury. But what the parents of those California kids with diabetes know, as does the American Diabetes Association, is that a nurse is a better and safer alternative for the kids than a volunteer staff member, even one who is trained. Looking carefully at the diabetic kids, further, helps us understand that school nurses are a very good idea for all of the kids, not just those with chronic conditions. This happens a lot when a person has a disability – solving that person’s problem can improve the lives of others. (Think about curb cuts for wheelchairs the next time you’re pushing a stroller or pulling a piece of luggage on wheels.) All parents, not only those with diabetic kids, need to have confidence that someone at the child’s school is capable of paying attention to serious medical issues. It’s a good issue for parents to join together to solve.
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Jason P. Nance entitled School Security Considerations After Newtown. Professor Nance writes that strict school security measures may be ineffective but have a balkanizing effect:
On December 14, 2012, and in the weeks thereafter, our country mourned the deaths of twenty children and six educators who were brutally shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since that horrific event, parents, educators, and lawmakers have understandably turned their attention to implementing stronger school security measures to prevent such atrocities from happening again. In fact, many states have enacted or proposed legislation to provide additional funds to schools for metal detectors, surveillance cameras, bulletproof glass, locked gates, and law enforcement officers. Because increased security measures are unlikely to prevent someone determined to commit a violent act at school from succeeding, funding currently dedicated to school security can be put to better use by implementing alternative programs in schools that promote peaceful resolution of conflict.
The events at Newtown have caused all of us to deeply consider how to keep students safe at school. A natural response to this atrocity is to demand that lawmakers and school administrators invest our limited public funds into strict security measures. But this strategy is misguided. Empirical evidence suggests that these additional investments in security equipment and law enforcement officers may lead to further disparities along racial and economic lines. Further, it is imperative that all constituencies understand that there are more effective ways to address violence than resorting to coercive measures that harm the educational environment. Indeed, schools can make a tremendous impact in the lives of students by teaching students appropriate ways to resolve conflict and making them feel respected, trusted, and cared for. These are the types of schools that can make a real difference in the lives of students.
February 11, 2013 at 10:45 am Tags: Civil Rights, Education, Policy, school security, schools Posted in: Civil Rights, Education, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law Rev (Stanford), Politics Print This Post No Comments
posted by Stanford Law Review
The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Andrew Kloster entitled The Violence Against Women Act and Double Jeopardy in Higher Education. Mr. Kloster argues that proposed changes to the Violence Against Women Act have potentially serious implications for persons accused committing sexual assault in university proceedings:
The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), set to expire this year, has elicited predictable partisan rancor. While there is little chance of the reauthorization being enacted by Congress so close to an election, the Senate draft includes a provision that raises interesting issues for the rights of students involved in sexual assault disciplinary proceedings on campus. The Senate version of VAWA could arguably condition a university’s receipt of federal funds on a requirement that the university always provide an appeal right for both accuser and accused. Setting aside the massive rise in federal micromanagement of college disciplinary proceedings, the proposed language in VAWA raises serious, unsettled issues of the application of double jeopardy principles in the higher education context.
Whatever the legal basis, it is clear that both Congress and the Department of Education ought to take seriously the risk that mandating that all universities receiving federal funds afford a dual appeal right in college disciplinary proceedings violates fundamental notions of fairness and legal norms prohibiting double jeopardy. College disciplinary hearings are serious matters that retain very few specific procedural safeguards for accused students, and permitting “do-overs” (let alone mandating them) does incredible damage to the fundamental rights of students.
Read the full article, The Violence Against Women Act and Double Jeopardy in Higher Education at the Stanford Law Review Online.
October 10, 2012 at 10:30 am Tags: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Education, feminism Posted in: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Education, Feminism and Gender, Law Rev (Stanford) Print This Post One Comment
posted by Angela Harris
“Mom,” said my fourteen-year-old daughter. “What can I be for Diversity Day without being racist?”
As a good, progressive private school, my daughter’s school prides itself on its commitment to “diversity.” And like schools everywhere, it has a Spirit Week during which students and staff are instructed to do wacky things together in the service of building school spirit. Pajama Day! Crazy Hair Day! Superhero Day! This year, for some reason, the two mandates collided. Thus we got Diversity Day.
Someone, fortunately, had made a stab at thinking things through. We parents got an email from a school administrator warning us, “This is NOT a day to try to be someone else.” At least no one is going to show up in blackface, I thought with relief.
But what is Diversity Day supposed to be about? According to the email, “It is a day to celebrate a core aspect of the School’s mission by giving students the opportunity to celebrate their own cultural and/or family traditions. . . a day to express a certain amount of pride and respect for their families and backgrounds.”
Great, but there is complexity on top of complexity here. Begin with the fact that among the children of the Northern California professional-managerial class, there are hardly any who would claim a single “cultural and/or family tradition” for “their own.” These are kids with hyphenated last names and hyphenated backgrounds. The email to parents says, “They need to express themselves in a way that would make their grandparents proud of who they are.” Yes, but which grandparents? And who “are” these kids? Do they – or we – yet know? Yes, they have studied slavery and the Holocaust at school. My daughter and I have had lively discussions about President Andrew Jackson and his role in the Trail of Tears. But these children are fourteen and privileged and they live in the Bay Area; they are only now beginning to come into personal contact with the sharp edges of racism. I’m sure the parents of the eighth-grade black boys have already had several painful talks about being deferential and making no sudden movements when around strange white people or police officers. But I’m lucky; as mother of a girl, I only (!) have to worry about sex.
As in: “None of my friends think Asian boys are hot,” says my daughter. Some boy in her class has declared, “Black girls aren’t hot unless they look white.” To which my (black, curvy) daughter said sorrowfully, “I would have thought black girls would be attractive because they’re curvy.” We talk about the politics of personal ads; it seems grown-ups are also not quite post-racial in this area. And we try to unpack what “hotness” is supposed to mean, anyway.
Yet even these hard conversations are only tiny forays into the maelstrom of identity. High school and college, these days, are where the racial decisions really begin to bite for privileged kids. That accords, anyway, with the accounts of my “of color” students in their Critical Race Theory journals, who report being shocked when college classmates suddenly insisted on knowing “What are you?” or “Where are you from? No, really?” College is when those with complex identities and backgrounds are pressured by others to choose, to align, to make a stand.
Add to this confusion our national culture’s own vexed commitment to “diversity,” that peppy, All-American solution to the tragedy of racial subordination. Diversity is great because everyone has it already! Also, it’s good for everybody, since the corporate world, the military, and advertising can’t be wrong! But as Sheila Foster pointed out long ago, the downside of diversity is its emptiness; it can mean all things to all people and therefore nothing at all. And since everybody is different from everybody else, diversity is kinda automatic, no? “Should I just go as myself?” wonders my daughter. I respond, “If it’s their mission, then why isn’t every day Diversity Day?”
The truth, of course, is that race is the elephant in the diversity room. What we really care about when we talk about “diversity” is race and ethnicity, with perhaps a nod to gender, sexuality, and disability. But within the diversity framework, this commitment becomes fraught. When corrective justice was the paradigm, it made sense to put race and ethnicity at the center; flute players and yoga practitioners have not been targets for society-wide discrimination. If diversity for its own sake is the new goal, however, what do race and ethnicity become but skin color, eye shape, and quaint native costumes? Thus does Diversity Day pull us, ironically, toward the post-racial fantasy in which Martin Luther King, Jr. Day really is no different from St. Patrick’s Day in the United States: just another chance to be sold fun foods and drinks, and to feel good about how we are all the same beneath our superficial differences.
And I would be fine with that, were my daughter actually growing up in a world where no one would make her hotness depend on how “white” she looks.
Well, by the time she’s ready to go to college, of course, no doubt the Supreme Court will have ruled that diversity is not a compelling state interest after all and that higher education admissions in public schools must be race-blind. The question will be what these well-meaning private schools should do with their Diversity Days. New awkward rituals await, I’m sure.
But perhaps an awkward commitment to justice is better than no commitment at all.
P.S. I know: All these race problems are supposed to disappear in twenty-five years or less. Our innocent, colorblind children are going to lead us into the promised land. OK, I’ll wait.
P.P.S. Oh, and for those who want to know — She’s going to wear a pink triangle.
posted by Taunya Banks
Colleges and universities across the country are trying to find ways to curb, or off-set, increasingly prohibitive tuition costs. But Texas Governor Rick Perry has thrown down the gauntlet by challenging that state’s public universities (and the nation) to come up with a baccalaureate degree that cost students only $10,000. The current yearly in-state tuition at Texas universities ranges from $15, 348 to $25,477. These figures include tuition, fees, book, board and transportation.
This week Texas Commission of Higher Education, Raymund A. Paredes, declared that Perry’s proposal is “highly feasible.” He argues that the goal is “about making sure we have a range of options for young people so they can select a path to a baccalaureate that makes the most sense to them.” According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, this clearly and consciously “stripped-down degree” would account for ten percent of the total baccalaureate degrees from Texas schools. The more pressing question, however, is which students are most likely to “opt” for the “low-cost” degree. The obvious answer is low income students who also just happen to be disproportionately non-white.
What is not addressed by either the Coordinating Board or Commissioner Paredes is the long-term consequence of opting fora low-cost degree. What happens when students with low-cost degrees apply to graduate and professional schools? Will their degrees be considered competitive or will these graduates be consigned to jobs that nominally require a college degree? Will they become second-class college graduates – educated cashiers at fast food restaurants?
Most of us in higher education readily admit that tuition costs are too high and that we need to think about cost-cutting measures. But hopefully few of us want any variation of the Texas two-tier model, for if Texas has its way “low-cost” JD and MD degrees may not be far behind. I doubt that anyone wants to be treated by a physician with a low-cost medical degree, and I certainly would not want to be represented by a lawyer with a low-cost law degree. In the meantime in an attempt to off-set costs we set universities where increasing few teachers are tenured and language or classic departments and/or programs are gutted with little thought about their educational value.
It is time we ask ourselves a hard question the answer to which we might not want to know: whether the popular American notion that college should be available for anyone who has the money (or can borrow the cost of tuition) contributes to the high cost of a college education. In many countries with quality higher education systems, only the most talented need apply, and the costs are low. But before we can even think about limiting access to higher education we need to (re)commit to providing better primary and secondary education for everyone in this country. Only then can we focus on how to ensure that truly talented individuals obtain a college degree without being burdened with a life-time of debt. In the meantime, folks in Texas may have to “settle” for second-class degrees.
This is my final post on Concurring Opinions. Sorry I did not have time to post and provoke more. I’ve really enjoyed my month’s stint.
posted by Michelle Harner
When I was in private practice, I never gave much thought to how law schools prepare students for a career in the legal profession. I was fortunate to have a very positive law school experience and even more fortunate to end up in a small practice group within a big law firm that took pride in training its young associates. (I also had a wonderful mentor during my judicial clerkship experience.) As a result, I never felt unprepared for the practice of law.
It was not until I left practice and started teaching that I truly appreciated the gap between legal education and legal practice. I know that statement is not a new revelation; many have discussed the lack of practical skills imparted to students during their three years of law school (see, e.g., here, here, here and here). And I do not make it to criticize legal education (for the most recent critique, see here). Although some things could be done differently (for a collection of articles on legal education reform, see here), I believe that teaching students critical analytical skills provides a solid foundation for legal practice and inculcates a skill set that translates beyond the legal profession (see here and here). I raise it, however, to share my recent, very enjoyable experience with third year law students in Business Planning.
This fall, I co-taught Business Planning with my colleague, Dan Goldberg, who focuses his teaching and scholarship on tax law. Dan and I worked together to prepare lesson plans and assignments, and we co-taught each class meeting. In fact, we structured the class to simulate a small law firm; Dan and I played the role of the tax and corporate partners, and the students played corporate associates. (For a discussion of training law students to be more client ready, see here.)
The class started with one of the law firm’s long-time individual clients seeking the law firm’s assistance in structuring a new business venture among the firm’s client and two other individuals. The students confronted ethical issues presented by this request and then helped the individuals evaluate their entity choice options from tax, governance and general business perspectives. This exercise introduced students to business plans, balance sheets and organizational documents. The hypothetical law firm and student associates served as counsel to the newly-formed business entity during the remainder of the semester, and they helped this hypothetical client work through liquidity and growth issues, an unsolicited purchase offer and an initial public offering.
posted by Michelle Harner
Two lucky people woke up this morning mega millionaires. After yesterday’s lottery ticket buying frenzy, one winning ticket was sold in Idaho and the other in Washington (see here). The winners will share equally the $355 million jackpot.
Sounds like a dream coming true, right? Unfortunately, for many lottery winners, winning the lottery eventually leads to bankruptcy (see here, here and here). Statistics tend to show that a good portion of lottery winners file chapter 7 or chapter 13 personal bankruptcy cases within five years of receiving their jackpots (see here and here). In one sense, the tale of doom attached to big lottery winnings seems similar to the ploy of telling a bride that rain on her wedding day signals good luck—it makes those of us who didn’t win feel a little better. In another sense, however, it highlights a real problem in our approach to financial education.
Yesterday, the American Bankruptcy Institute reported a significant increase in overall personal bankruptcy filings. Undoubtedly, some of those filings are the direct result of the recession, and some filings stem from similar unforeseen changes in circumstances, such as divorce and serious health problems. But many personal bankruptcies involve honest, unsophisticated individuals who simply do not understand or have the skill set to manage their personal finances. Yes, these individuals should take responsibility for their finances, but they also need training and resources to be successful in that endeavor. Studies suggest that many high school graduates do not understand how credit cards and other basic financial instruments work (see here, here and here), yet most carry credit and debit cards in their wallets.
I appreciate the enormous challenges facing the U.S. education system. As we evaluate these challenges, however, we need to consider financial education as part of the core curriculum. We also need to continue working to provide meaningful financial education to adults (for an interesting study concerning financial education and bankruptcy, see here). Although the 2005 amendments to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code incorporate a consumer education component, that requirement has become little more than the potential debtor sitting in front of a computer screen and answering a few questions in order to be able to file her bankruptcy petition (for other perspectives, see here, here and here; for an excellent study regarding the impact of the 2005 amendments on consumer debtors, see here). I hope that as the economy recovers, so too do our financial education initiatives (see here and here) so that more individuals have a real chance at sustainable financial health.
posted by Craig Livermore
A contrarian approach is perhaps endemic to the reformer. If A is the problem, then it is natural to assert anti-A as the solution. In the realm of education, if we have been losing ground as a nation, and if the skills gaps among racial groups have not been closing, then the obvious choice of legal reform efforts, beginning in the 1980′s and 1990′s, has been to blame the highly regulated system of public educational bureaucracies. If such educational systems were A, then the solution, for the reformer, must be the anti-A of choice, competition, and accountability to loosen the stasis of ineffective systems. Thus was born the state assessment movements of the 1990′s which culminated in the federal choice and accountability No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation of 2002, the charter school movement which began in the 1990’2, and the rise to preeminence of accountability educational leaders such as Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of New York who began reforms in 2002, and Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C., who was appointed Schools Chancellor in 2007.
However, in 2010, Rhee and Klein are no longer Schools Chancellors, significant reforms and flexibility to NCLB are being advocated by President Obama, and the charter school and choice movements are struggling to determine how to replicate the results of highly successful charter models more broadly. Although successes exist, there are a myriad of frustrated reformers originally arrayed with weapons of Harvard Business Review terminology, data-driven instruction, and high expectations who have been slain on the battle field by entrenched interests, the lack of human capital for extremely difficult work, and psycho-social and academic barriers, especially in the urban context, which are rooted in depth beyond what human beings can face with any level of comfort.
The United States is undoubtedly moving into another epoch in educational reform. The question is: Will we continue to manifest bipolar disorder and revert back to A, or will a dialectic of A and anti-A yield a uniquely informed synthesis? One could argue that it is precisely such synthesis underlying President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB is the current version of this legislation), as well as his competitive grant program Race to the Top under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. In his educational approach, Obama seeks to unleash local ingenuity through competition, walk the federalism tight rope by encouraging, but not requiring, states to adopt common national assessment standards, and maintain accountability for school performance, but with more funding for school improvement.
But the middle path of synthesis is not compromise. It is a third way (or a fourth way, etc.), and thus its thoughtful substance threatens deeply the worlds of A and anti-A. Recent political history, of course, has overtly challenged visions of complexity. As the current political landscape collides with the next wave of educational reform that is upon us, we can only hope that synthesis is possible. If one is a supporter of the Obama vision–and I am–then one must believe that the tortoise must outlast the hair. One must have the integrity and resilience to maintain faith when the fears of the world have necessitated a reversion to anti-A. One must have the courage to live in uncertainty and seek complex solutions to the almost unbearably complex challenges we face.
posted by Craig Livermore
The Supreme Court has in the past several weeks granted certiorari in two cases involving the rights of juveniles in police interrogations in the school setting. In Greene v. Camreta, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the interrogation of a juvenile by police authorities in the school setting in the absence of a warrant, court order, exigent circumstances, or parental consent, was an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the Matter of J.D.B., the Supreme Court of North Carolina held that a 13 year old burglary suspect who was interrogated by police officials in his school without parental notification and consent, was not in custody, and thus he was not entitled to have Miranda warnings read to him. By agreeing to hear both J.D.B. and Greene in this term, the Supreme Court is undoubtedly seeking to clarify the legal standards surrounding the increasing law enforcement presence in public schools. However, on a broader level, the Court is also entering into the societal discussion regarding the role of the public school in American democracy. As it is increasingly accepted that the school is becoming the central societal institution, the lack of parental notification for the interrogations in Greene and Camreta is of particular concern. The marginalization of parental involvement in such issues of morality and law may stem from a growing suspicion regarding the rearing abilities of parents. If the Supreme Court does not elevate the right of parental involvement in school interrogations to Constitutional concern, then it will be throwing judicial weight to society’s growing cynicism toward the ability of parents, especially in challenging urban contexts, to manifest parental responsibility.
November 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm Tags: Education, Education and Police, Education Reform, Parental Responsibility, School Interrogations, Schools Searches, Supreme Court Posted in: Uncategorized Print This Post No Comments
posted by Craig Livermore
There is a current debate concerning whether the standard of college preparedness should be written into the structures of education law. The college preparedness argument has been rising to the fore due to the revisions to the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-popularly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA)-proposed in the Obama Administration’s “Blue Print for Reform.” President Obama’s suggested revisions would replace the current NCLBA math, English language arts, and science proficiency standards as a means of evaluating schools with various other measurements, including whether students at schools are being prepared to be “college and career ready.” The proposed change to the legal federal assessment standard is driven by the administration’s view that post-secondary education is essential to individual, communal, and national competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century. President Obama has announced the goal of regaining the global lead in the proportion of the citizenry obtaining post-secondary degrees by 2020. In the realm of education, law is increasingly being relied upon to create incentives, structures and values which have traditionally been thought to be in the realm of private production. The traditional conception of the public school is properly being recast from a provider of information and skill, to the central institution in communal renewal.
However, the federal focus on college preparedness, as with many educational initiatives of the Obama administration, has received criticism. Critics of this emphasis argue that college preparedness is a one size fits all category which will inevitably stigmatize students without the ability or proclivity to attend college, and thus contribute to greater levels of failure and higher school drop out rates due to psychological pressures. Such critics contend that there are many solid middle class trade careers of value which can be viable options for students without the skill level or desire for college. However, defenders of college preparedness are often concerned with a specific context-the inadequacy of our educational systems to address the needs of dis-empowered minority groups, especially in the urban context. College preparedness champions often believe that critics do not fully understand and/or acknowledge the causation of the extreme racial disparities in educational outcomes.
November 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm Tags: College Preparedness, Education, Education Law, Education Policy, Higher Education, Minorities and Education, Obama administration, Policy, Race and Education Posted in: Civil Rights, Culture, Current Events, Education, Law and Humanities, Law and Inequality, Race, Uncategorized Print This Post No Comments
posted by Craig Livermore
Shortly after Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated in the mayoral primary this September, Michelle Rhee resigned from her position as the Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor. In her three years in the position, Rhee had gained a national reputation as a zealous “no-excuses” reformer seeking to hold teachers and educational administrators accountable in an attempt to raise urban student assessment scores. Along with Geoffry Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Rhee is spotlighted in the educational documentary Waiting for Superman as the type of reformer needed to turn around the multi-decade dysfunction and despair of urban education. However, Mayor Fenty’s political loss and Michelle Rhee’s resignation can rightly been seen as the most visible incident of a growing national educational trend to push back on hard-driving top-down reform with genesis outside of the communities which are in need of reform.
When Newark Mayor Cory Booker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg (Geoffry Canada was there as well) recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce the $100 million donation to the Newark Schools by Zuckerberg, Oprah hinted to Mayor Booker that Rhee is a dynamic reformer who could fill the soon to be vacant position of the Newark Public Schools Superintendent. Mayor Booker affirmed Rhee’s dynamism, but quickly stated that the real genesis of reform in urban education must emanate organically from the community. It is the parents, students, and community members which must be the supermen and superwomen. And thus, on November 1, 2010, an initiative called PEN Newark (Partnership for Education in Newark) has been launched as the first stage in the utilization of the Zuckerberg donation for education reform. PEN Newark has been founded as a collaborative effort between Mayor Booker and Newark Public Schools Advisory Board of Education Chair Shavar Jeffries. Jeffries is an organic leader from Newark who ran his campaign in 2010 on a platform of community engagement. The initiative is an extensive feedback and outreach initiative. Its mission is to connect, interview, survey, and speak with all stakeholders within the Newark community concerning the types of reform the Zuckerberg donation should generate. Mayor Booker has learned this political lesson well. And, indeed, this is the model of participative and collaborative reform that is gaining momentum nationally as a reaction to hard-driving no-excuses top-down reform.
But if this is all politics and education, what does it have to do with the Law? Everything. Public education in the United States is completely constructed and defined by an interactive array of legal regulation–both policy and jurisprudence. From comprehensive federal accountability legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act (the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act first passed by Congress in 1965), to the interpretation of educational rights by state and federal courts, to the strong support of collective bargaining agreements by most state law makers, education is minutely regulated. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 20 Abbott v. Burke opinions have interpreted the New Jersey Constitution’s right to a “thorough and efficient education” (Article VIII, Sec. 4) to not only delineate school funding formulas which provide for vertical equity (more money for students facing greater need), but have also mandated preschool education, reform from specific educational models, facilities construction and even curricular content standards. Over the past forty years, as urban schools have increasingly struggled with low performance, inefficiency and mismanagement, and, at times, corruption, greater detail and layers of policy and jurisprudence-based regulation have been implemented. When such micro-regulation has been added to schools within communities under great stress and poverty, dysfunction has been guaranteed, and stasis has resulted.
posted by Gaia Bernstein
I have written here about the trend of intensive parenting. Parents today are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before, constantly cultivating and monitoring their children’s progress. In our article, Over-Parenting, Zvi Triger and I caution against legal enforcement of intensive parenting norms. One area in which states have been most active recently in enforcing intensive parenting norms is parental involvement in schools.
Earlier this month California’s Senate adopted a bill that authorizes prosecutors to charge a parent with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine, if her child skips school on a regular basis. This law enforces intensive parenting. Parents engaging in intensive parenting are extremely involved in their children’s school activities. Volunteering in school activities, whether as a class trip chaperon or in school events has become the norm among both working and non-working parents. Schools provide parents with access to the school website to monitor children’s grades, class attendance and even lunch menus. Parents regularly attend family mornings at their children’s schools and are required to participate in children’s homework preparation through questions targeted specifically at them. Given this background, the California Bill, as extreme as it may sound to some, is not surprising. This Bill merely seeks to enforce what has already become a dominant social norm of intensive parental involvement in children’s school lives.
Some may think that the California Bill is not such a bad idea. After all don’t we want to ensure that children attend school regularly and eventually graduate from high-school. However, what may be a desirable social norm is not necessarily a good legal standard. A stay-at-home mom dealing with a difficult teenager and successfully assuring that her daughter attends school on a regular basis is no doubt helping her daughter. But do we want to hold the mother who fails to do so criminally liable? Parents are differently situated in their ability to control their children. Intensive parenting is a middle class parenting norm. Lower income class parents juggling several jobs may not have the flexibility to personally supervise their children to ensure they don’t skip school. In addition, this Bill, like intensive parenting norms, is in practice, gender biased. Intensive parenting heavily burdens mothers. Should states adopt and enforce laws holding parents criminally liable for their children’s school attendance, it will most likely be the mother, who is usually seen responsible for children’s daily activities, who will end up being held criminally liable.