Parents who miss teacher conferences are not criminals

Editorial

It had to happen. Now there’s a politician who wants to get the law-making process involved in the delicate business of teacher-parent relations.

Rep. Wayne Smith, a Republican from Baytown, Texas, has filed a bill that would allow a $500 fine to be levied on parents who miss a meeting with their child’s teacher.

Smith said last week he wants to get parents involved in their child’s education. And he wants to do it by force of law, the threat of a Class C misdemeanor.

“I think it helps the kids for the parents and teachers to communicate. That’s all the intent was,” Smith said, adding he talked to teachers, including his daughter, who teaches in junior high, before filing the bill.

“The concept is to get parents in the classroom,” he said.

What a stupid idea. Does he think government can make better parents by threatening them and forcing them to get involved in what must be a give-and-take discussion?

Parents talking to teachers with an eye to avoiding criminal action doesn’t exactly invoke an atmosphere of cooperation and congeniality.

But if Smith wants to create a nanny state with his legislation, we might suggest that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Perhaps it’s time for a bill that would allow elected officials such as state representatives to be fined if they miss a committee meeting or an important vote while the legislature is in session without a good excuse. Of course, a judge or prosecutor would be in charge of deciding whether that excuse was good enough or not.

Taking it a step further, why shouldn’t force of law be used to create better relations between lawmakers and those who elected them? Maybe we could make it a Class C misdemeanor for a state rep or a state senator not to return a phone call or reply to a letter or e-mail from a constituent.

After all, we think it helps the voters when members of the public and their elected officials communicate. We’d say this is a noble concept aimed at getting voters, and their lawmakers, involved in the process.

This, of course, could be carried out to ridiculous lengths by threatening doctors and lawyers with criminal action for not being honest and open with patients and clients.

But by filing HB 557, Smith has already carried the threat of prosecution to an eye-rolling, shoulder-shrugging level.