LongIsland.com

Parental Mismanagement

Written by fatherfrank  |  24. February 2006

Over the past few months we have heard and read countless stories of the lack of accountability within our school communities that has directly fueled the allegations of school corruption, fiscal mismanagement and fraud.
What about parental accountability, or if you will, parental mismanagement of their children?
Recently a daily newspaper in Suffolk County ran a series of articles about teenage recklessness and parental lack of responsibility regarding a non-sanctioned ski trip.
Dr. James LoFrese needs to be commended for taking a clear stand on student recklessness and for trying to hold students and parents accountable. Clearly, as a school administrator, he is not responsible for what his students did on their own time.
Many other school officials from other districts would and have turned a deaf ear and blind eyes toward what Dr. LoFrese elected to respond to.
A teacher from the district encountered students that were out of control at a rest stop. She felt compelled to contact her principal. He in turn felt obligated and contacted parents. He wanted them to know about a serious situation that he felt was escalating and moving in the direction of serious trouble.
Serious trouble did erupt. Students were arrested for underage drinking and illegal drug use. At least one student was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Little was reported about the destruction of property that took place and the countless guests staying at the same resort who were unfairly disturbed because of the students' loud and obnoxious behavior.
If you attempt to sort out the facts of this lost weekend, it becomes even more troubling. There are so many disturbing decisions that were made by everyone involved.
It is amazing in this litigious society that any business would rent to high school students without an adult co-signer or an adult chaperone. What business today would allow unsupervised high school students to charter a bus headed for a ski resort with little to no chaperones?
Why would the bus company, who had at least one bus driver acknowledge that there was trouble before the trip began, even allow the bus to continue? Why didn't the driver stop immediately, especially if the students started drinking immediately?
Probably the most disturbing aspect of this dangerous lost weekend was the poor parenting on the part of most of the students' parents.
Parents that were interviewed indicated that they thought there was adequate supervision. How did they know that? Did they as parents call the company and have them clarify what they were doing regarding the trip? Were there permission slips signed or even required?
As parents, a deeper question should be raised. Do you allow your high school coed to go on a weekend ski trip with a touring company with supervision you have never met? Who are these supervisors? What kind of training did they have to supervise high school students?
These questions and many more have emerged since this unfortunate weekend. Dr. LoFrese from Half Hollow West took a courageous and commendable stand on this unfortunate weekend. He could have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye and excused himself from this tragic episode.
Hopefully, the parents of his high school community will respond to his efforts to protect his high school students from repeating this weekend of recklessness.
Some will argue that it was none of his or the school district's business. Weekends like this one have occurred many times before and will continue to happen in the future; with students being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and being arrested for underage drinking, drug use and disorderly conduct.
Many other school districts have elected to be silent on the kinds of behavior that happen outside of school. Shame on them. Dr. LoFrese and his colleagues need to be commended.
Hopefully, their efforts won't stop with counseling and parent-student education. The students that acted recklessly and irresponsibly should be held accountable.
Twenty-five years ago, there was a partnership that existed between school, community, church-temple and family. There was a cooperative spirit where everyone attempted to be in concert with one another.
Today, we all seem to operate as separate entities, with little or no connection or cooperation.
Those schools that make an effort at parental and community cooperation complain that parents are resistant and are constantly rescuing their children from being held accountable.
Some parents who want to work in concert with their schools complain that their schools are closed minded and not interested. These schools need to be called to task.
Working with teenagers, on a good day, is challenging. This present generation is not really that much different from former generations, except that they have been exposed to much more at an earlier age.
The Internet, for better or worse, has made available more information and broad opportunities that probably need greater supervision.
Supervision is probably the greatest challenge in regard to our teens. Many teenagers are left on their own for the better part of the day to fend for themselves. Many have two parents who are working. Those from single parent households have a parent who is possibly working two jobs to make ends meet.
There has also been a major shift in attitude among parents. Too many parents want to be their children's friend. They are afraid to say no and set limits.
How many parents reading this column have clear rules about underage drinking and smoking weed? What about overnights or weekends away?
Many teens know that their parents don't approve of underage drinking or the smoking of pot, but they tolerate it. They know that their parents have taken the position that "they are going to do it anyway, so live with it."
Teenagers are going to engage in unacceptable behaviors, but that does not excuse us from calling them to task and holding them accountable.
Maybe if we revived that partnership from yesteryear, started talking to fellow parents and tried supporting positive school initiatives, things would not seem so out of control.
As parents, we have an obligation to protect our children's livelihood, even if they resist, protest and are angry with us. It is a small price to pay for ensuring their future.

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