At Issue: Should parents have to pay for actions of deliquent kids?

City of South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis leads a Town Hall Discussion on a ordinance to hold parents more accountable for their children’s actions at the South Fulton County Government Annex Building. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO
City of South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis leads a Town Hall Discussion on a ordinance to hold parents more accountable for their children’s actions at the South Fulton County Government Annex Building. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

With crime increasing in many metro Atlanta areas, a city councilwoman from South Fulton wants to make parents pay financially and with jail time if their children break laws. Helen Zenobia Willis has proposed requiring parents to take classes or participate in other diversion programs to help them manage unruly children, if those children get in trouble with the law. If the parents don’t, or their interventions prove worthless, the proposed law could fine them up to $100 or send them to jail for up to 30 days.

In a story by AJC reporter Arielle Kass, Willis said she’s recieved positive response from community members who are tired of crime. They like the idea of taking action. While frustrated with a slew of crimes, often committed by juveniles, others aren’t sure locking up parents and charging them fines is the right answer.

They question whether the proposal is fair to parents who are often struggling, and how effective it might be. Similar laws to hold parents responsible for the actions of their children exist across the country.

What do you think should be done? Should the consequenses of having law-breaking children result in fines and/or jail time for parents of delinquents? Or is there another solution to keep communities safe?

Send reponses to communitynews@ajc.com. Comments may be edited for length and/or clarity and may be published in print or on a digital platform.

LAST WEEK: DOES FAYETTE NEED TO PROCLAIM “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY”?

Fayette County’s newly adopted “religious liberty” resolution, put forth by Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Randy Ognio, was meant as both a local statement and to support Senate Bill 233 currently in the Georgia legislature. Like the state bill, the local measure — whose language was adapted from House Resolution 514 in the U.S. Congress in 2015 — claims to protect the ability of citizens to exercise their religious beliefs unless a “compelling government interest” can justify doing otherwise.

The resolution states in part, “Fayette County shall not infringe upon the ability of individuals to act in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs; and… condemns any behavior by any other government that limits the ability of individuals to express their religious beliefs.” Attendees at the Jan. 11 commission meeting included both supporters and opponents of the measure, and discussion included concerns about the impact of such a statement on local business development.

We asked what others in the community had to say, and here are some of the many replies we received:

The Fayette Chamber believes that inclusion, diversity and free enterprise are keys to creating a welcoming, collaborative and prosperous business climate. We support ideas and public policy that protect the rights and freedoms afforded every citizen in our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. – Fayette Chamber of Commerce

I find the Religious Freedom bill both duplicitous and self-serving. We either have a democracy that serves all the citizens or a theocracy that favors citizens who observe the "correct" religion. I personally do not want my government tampering with my religion or my religion tampering with my government. — Charles Davenport

If a person cannot figure out how to run a business without discrimination and bigotry, then they probably shouldn't own a business. If Fayette County is to adhere to the equal protections clause of the Constitution, atheist business owners must be allowed to deny service to any and all religions they do not want to "participate" in. — Anonymous in PTC

The Fayette County commissioners' proclamation for "religious freedom" is a divisive statement in a community that strives to work together. The promise and commitment of the commissioners is to represent, serve and protect the interest of all of its law-abiding citizens. This proclamation does not honor that commitment. — Ralph Ferguson

My incontrovertible conclusion is this was just unnecessary, ill-conceived political posturing taken by the commission to the overwhelming detriment of Fayette County and its collective citizenry. – Terrance K. Williamson, President, Fayette County NAACP

Churches and those who proclaim to be messengers of God should not need "religious liberty." They should love and serve all regardless of belief. WWJD? — Rawls Whittlesey

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should not have the dogmas of others held over them as a weapon in life or in commerce. – Morgan Summerfield

Better to tackle real problems of rural health care, immigration parity and infrastructure repairs for the betterment of all Georgians, than to address minutia regarding cake-baking biases. – Ellen Hunter Ulken

Jill Howard Church for the AJC

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