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Court Threat for Parents of Unruly Students

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When students act out repeatedly in class, are disrespectful to their teachers, or skip school often, educators expect parents to be allies for change. But when parents refuse to even discuss their children's serious misbehavior with school authorities, what should these officials do?

In Norfolk, Va., the school board has decided it's time to go to court.

The Virginian-Pilot's Stephen Vegh recently reported that Norfolk public school parents who disregard the schools' attempts to reach out to them for a shared solution to their children's major disruptiveness or misbehavior will be called to juvenile court.

This measure relies on a provision in a policy that has been in effect for seven years, but that has never been enforced—until now. Parents' lack of involvement can come at a steep price. Under Virginia law, "the court can order a student and parents to participate in programs including summer school, parenting or mentoring classes, and extended-day programs. A court also can order a parent to pay a civil penalty of up to $500," the newspaper reports.

Board Chairman Kirk Houston was quoted as saying: "Parents are not responding to these issues appropriately, whether it's attending hearings" or showing accountability for their unruly child.

"Norfolk board members said they now want to enforce the policy after particularly growing concerned about a lack of parental involvement in cases of student aggression toward school staff," The Virginian-Pilot reports, citing Virginia Department of Education statistics that Norfolk recorded 141 student offenses against staff in 2010-11, the latest year for which data were available.

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