New bill would hold parents accountable for harmful actions of their children


New legislation has been introduced that seeks to hold parents accountable for the harmful actions of their children.

Bill No. 310-35, the “Parent Accountability Act of 2020,” introduced by Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson, comes on the heels of repeated calls by education officials and school communities for tougher penalties for parents whose children pose threats to the safety and welfare of other students.

Student violence has been on the rise in the island’s public schools after a Sept. 12, 2019, riot at John F. Kennedy High School, a separate riot at Tiyan High School on Sept. 26, 2019, and a fight between students at Okkodo High School on Oct. 11, 2019.

Because of these incidents, administrators have supported holding parents and guardians more accountable for their children’s actions.

“For parents, it is a given that they do their absolute best to raise their children to not only be good citizens, but also virtuous individuals,” said Nelson in a news release.

The Vice Speaker, who is also the chairperson of the Committee on Education, said it saddens her that she has to craft a bill that holds parents accountable for the actions of their children.

“But our children are at risk,” she said, referring to the other children hurt by those few wrongdoers.

The Parent Accountability Act of 2020 proposes holding parents and guardians liable for the cost of their children’s damages to property, persons, village, school district, religious or charitable organization, and municipal corporation or association.

The bill also covers shoplifting and personal injury attributed to a willful, and malicious act.

Also under the bill, bystanders who initiate, instigate, or incite malicious acts may be dually charged with guilt established by complicity and may be fined $1,000 per offense or required to attend family counseling.

The bill also empowers minor victims of harmful actions by allowing victims of malicious acts, or their parents or guardians, to initiate civil action directly against the parent or parents of the child who committed the malicious act.

This entitles victims to receive compensation of at least $1,000 per offense and up to $5,000, in addition to all associated medical or therapy bills.

In addition, any form of contact or retaliation by the aggressors may be recognized as an additional offense and may be fined at least $1,000 per attempt, with the victim being given the option to obtain a restraining order from such persons.

“Our children are no longer being raised with the values our grandparents instilled in us, values of compassion, empathy, and support of everyone in our community,” Nelson said. “With this change in our society and culture, we now question the absence of discipline and guidance that our children need.”

Nelson added: “With advancements in technology, our children are heavily influenced by social media and forces outside their family that promote violence and segregate them from common humanity. These influences lead to the justification and glamorization of violence against others. With this bill, I hope we can implore parents to extend their efforts and cling closer to their children, holding them accountable for their actions and instilling in them acts of humanity and kindness. We are accountable for our children’s actions. It is our duty to raise our children with love, faith, and compassion.”