California judges now have the option to steer parents to a gang education class if their children are convicted of gang crimes, according to the Associated Press.
Under the new law, which took effect last January, the parents are taught how to identify the warning signs of gang involvement or study photos of drug fiends. Also, family members affected by gang crime will come to the classes and tell their stories.
California Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D) introduced the bill, called the Parent Accountability Act. This is the first state law of its kind, although similar classes exist at local levels, he told the AP.
“A lot of parents do not know how to handle teenagers,” he said. “Now more than ever, parents need a guide.”
So far, the classes have been held only in four high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. State budget constraints have delayed the spread of the training to other parts of the state.
Although the class fee is currently waived, parents will eventually be charged about $20 per class. If they fail to show, they face the prospect of contempt of court charges.
One parent, who attended the training because of the crimes of her gang affiliated son, agreed that monitoring children can be difficult.
“The most difficult thing is to have control of the kids,” Socorro Gonzalez told the AP. “When I come home, I don’t know what they have been up to.”
Not everyone is a supporter of the strict measure.
“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,” Olu Orange, a political science professor at the University of Southern California said.
Roughly 80,000 people are affiliated with gangs in Los Angeles County, the AP estimates.
In other cities such as Santa Fe, N.M., parents of juveniles caught using graffiti have to pay to repair the damage.
Effective next year, a second California law will allow judges to charge parents criminally if their children skip school.