There are a million different ways to raise a child, but most would agree that good parenting skills are essential. Well, a new California law aims to hold parents of gang members accountable for their children’s behavior, but is it fair?

The law, the Parent Accountability Act, was introduced by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, and is the first law in California to give judges the power to sentence the parents of gang members to court-mandated parenting classes. To be eligible for these court-mandated classes, the child must be a first-time offender and have been convicted of a gang-related crime, such as tagging.

The law aims to prevent gang-related crimes by making parents more aware of the warning signs that indicate that their teens are in trouble, and equip them with the tools to help their children get back on the right track. According to Assemblyman Mendoza, many parents just aren’t aware of how to parent older children. “A lot of parents do not know how to handle teenagers,” Mendoza said. “Now more than ever, parents need a guide.”

Although the Accountability Act took affect last January, the law has been slow to roll out across the state due to budget constraints. For now, the law is being implemented in Los Angeles County, which authorities estimate has approximately 80,000 gang members. Currently, the classes are being held at only four high schools across the county, which has contributed to low parent turnout because many are unable to get to the classes.

So far, judges have been lenient with parents who are unable to, or do not, make the classes. However, in the future, those who miss the court-mandated classes can be held in contempt of court and fined. Even though many judges think that the program is a good start in addressing the situation of troubled teens, some are worried about holding the parents responsible for the child’s crime.

“The prospect of parents being subject to criminal penalties for violating a court order that is imposed on them as part of a non-jury process scares me,” said Olu Orange, associate professor at the University of Southern California.

The law, which was partly inspired by Assemblyman Mendoza’s childhood brush with gangs, will be rolled out across the state in 2011.

What do you think? Should parents face penalties for their children’s behavior? You tell us!

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