One of the first times I can recall hearing “sorry” used to mean “worthless” or “lame” in a public setting was at a meeting of the state’s former education reform commission. In a discussion about rampant truancy in some counties, then Gov. Roy Barnes talked about the challenges of “sorry parents” who don’t get their kids to school on time or at all.
The pungent Southern phrase stuck with me and, unfortunately, comes in handy all too often. For example, the parents of balloon boy seem pretty sorry to me, especially as evidence mounts that they made their young son an accomplice in their bid for reality TV fame.
But what can schools do about sorry parents?
And should children pay the price for their parents’ failings and inadequacies?
A friend of mine is an attorney who volunteered in a project working with chronic truants. The real problem, she said, wasn’t the 9-year-old girl who missed far too much school, but the mother who let the child stay up until midnight or later and who didn’t bother to rouse her in the morning. The whole household slept until 10.
I interviewed a dad in the spring who was heartsick that his daughter could not do field day because he was late with after-school care fees. He and his wife, a teacher, had both lost their jobs and were paying utility and house bills first and the school-based after-care program was low on their list of outstanding debts.
The school said the daughter could not participate in field day until the bill was paid. The father thought the penalties should fall on him, not his child. “Let them go after me,” he said. “I’m the one with the obligation.”
But he did manage to come up with the money at the last minute so his daughter would not miss all the field day fun.
I assume the schools have found they get results with debt collection when the child is going to be the one to suffer the consequences. And schools have their own outstanding bills to pay, including the after-care staff in this instance.
But should kids pay for the sins of sorry parents?