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LOS ANGELES – It's a Saturday morning and a half-dozen adults are sitting in a high school classroom, staring at grim photos of sickly drug addicts and hearing about the deadly consequences of gang crime. They'd rather not be here, but a judge made them come.

The moms and dads were ordered to attend the class under a new California law giving judges the option of sending parents for training when their kids are convicted of gang crimes for the first time.

Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, the lawmaker behind the Parent Accountability Act, said it is the first state law to give judges the power to order parents of gang members to school, though other court-mandated classes exist at the local level.

"A lot of parents do not know how to handle teenagers," Mendoza said. "Now more than ever, parents need a guide."

The new law went into effect in January and eventually will be in place across California. Budget cuts in Sacramento meant implementation of the classes was delayed and only in the past month or so have they been rolled out on a limited basis in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Several of those first classes were canceled due to low attendance, something organizers blamed on judges' ignorance of the new law. But the sputtering start also speaks to the difficulties of trying to engage parents who may be too busy or apathetic to take a more active role in their kids' lives.

Authorities say Los Angeles County has about 80,000 gang members, though those estimates vary. Parents in gang neighborhoods often struggle to make ends meet and find themselves working more than one job. The long hours mean they can't spend much time with their kids and some youngsters say they are tempted into gang life by a sense of companionship missing from their own family.

"The most difficult thing is to have control of the kids," said Socorro Gonzalez, a housekeeper who was ordered to a recent class after her son, a member of the San Fer gang, got into trouble. "When I come home, I don't know what they have been up to."

At the class last month with six parents, an instructor speaking in Spanish flashed images of drug paraphernalia and showed pictures of addicts before and after they acquired their habit. At a later session, another instructor outlined classic warning signs of gang involvement — tattoos, secretive behavior, sudden changes in musical tastes and the use of gang hand signals.

Jose and Rosalva Rodriguez attended one of the first classes, which was held on two consecutive Saturdays at a high school in the San Fernando Valley. Their 16-year-old son had been accused of spraying graffiti when police arrested him at a party attended by gang members.

In addition to sentencing him to one year's probation, community service and counseling, the judge ordered the parents to attend the class, where they heard about tough legal penalties levied against gang members and how they could get more involved in their kids' lives.

"It was very important," Jose Rodriguez said after driving an hour from Lancaster, a sprawling city in the high desert north of Los Angeles. "I'm going to speak to him, listen to him and give him advice."

The 48-year-old baker said he learned how to spot the warning signs of gang involvement, including if his son was carrying markers that can be used for gang graffiti.

Eventually, the classes will include the family members of victims of gang crime speaking to parents about their ordeals.

"There is nothing more moving than someone sitting in front of you, telling you how they felt when they heard the gunshots or their son or daughter was killed," Mendoza said.

The classes are supposed to be self funding and parents will eventually pay $20 or so a class, but the fee is being waived for now to draw more participants.

If parents fail to attend, they could be held in contempt of court. Judges are likely to lenient initially because only four high schools are offering the classes, making it impractical for parents without cars to attend.

Olu Orange, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California's political science department, said he was troubled by the possibility of parents being held in contempt for an offense committed by their child and adjudicated by a juvenile judge and not a jury.

"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," Orange said.

The law was inspired by Mendoza's own brush with gang life.

Growing up in the gritty Florence neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles, Mendoza saw the importance of parental involvement. The second youngest of nine kids, he was drifting toward gang life and sported the shaved head and baggy Dickies shorts favored by many Latino street gang members.

His cousin was headed the same way. But when Mendoza's mother started to clamp down on which friends he could hang out with, his aunt was less strict. The cousin eventually became a full-blown member of the Florencia-13 street gang and was killed in a drive-by shooting in the early 1990s.

"My mom started getting more involved and prohibited us from hanging out with certain people," Mendoza said. "My aunt didn't."

Other court-mandated classes exist, including the Parent Project, a 10-week program in Los Angeles County that counsels parents and their kids who may be skipping school, taking drugs or involved in gang life.

Rick Velasquez, executive director of Youth Outreach Services in Chicago, said parenting classes seemed like a good idea but noted that judges could often do a much better job of getting parents involved in their child's activities simply by speaking with them when they show up in court to support their children.

Elsewhere, other penalties exist for parents of children who get into trouble. In several jurisdictions, including Santa Fe, N.M., and San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, parents of kids caught spraying graffiti must pay the bill to clean it up.

A new law going into effect in California next year would let officials prosecute parents when their kids skip school.

Pasadena juvenile Judge Philip Soto said he'd not had a case yet where he could send parents to the new Parent Accountability class, but he supported it.

"It's always difficult in court when the parents come in and feign ignorance and say, 'I didn't know anything about this,'" Soto said. "You have to sit back and wonder how can you miss these signs."
 

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I think it's overdue, provided it helps.
 

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It could be done like this: If the parents show up they take it easier on the kid for the first offence. If they don't prosecute as normal. Second offence prosecute as normal because apparently they didn't learn their lesson with or without the parents the first time. :cheers:
 

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It could be done like this: If the parents show up they take it easier on the kid for the first offence. If they don't prosecute as normal. Second offence prosecute as normal because apparently they didn't learn their lesson with or without the parents the first time. :cheers:
well i would look at it this way. if they do it the first time, why let them off easy and give them a chance to maybe do some worse damage later?

like driving drunk. why give them a slap on the hands when they get caught cause you know they will most likely do it again and that time you might not be as lucky.
 

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This is a blatant overstepping the governments rights. Sometimes there is no better answer then the laws on the books, now. This is one of those times. If it is uncontested... what other crimes could the government make parents responsible for ? -Murder... rape ? Why just gang activity ?
 

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I think it's overdue, provided it helps.
:agree:


problem here is tho..

The laws can prevent parents from parenting, and that leaves teenagers with lack of respect for the parents because legally they have little control and ability to discipline their kids.

You tell your teens they are grounded to their room, they say "**** you" and your left powerless.

Ya cant hit them, lock them in their room, kick them out, deny them food.....ect....
 

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:agree:


problem here is tho..

The laws can prevent parents from parenting, and that leaves teenagers with lack of respect for the parents because legally they have little control and ability to discipline their kids.

You tell your teens they are grounded to their room, they say "**** you" and your left powerless.

Ya cant hit them, lock them in their room, kick them out, deny them food.....ect....
So they're left powerless to parent their own children? Really? How about they file a petition in famy court (In Michigan, the Circuit Court) for a juvenile in need of supervision? All states have petitions like that. Basically, a parent petitions the court to take the child into the state's custody because they are unable to control them.....problem solved. In Michigan that is up until age 17 at which time the juvenile is considered an adult and can get the **** out.
 

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So they're left powerless to parent their own children? Really? How about they file a petition in famy court (In Michigan, the Circuit Court) for a juvenile in need of supervision? All states have petitions like that. Basically, a parent petitions the court to take the child into the state's custody because they are unable to control them.....problem solved. In Michigan that is up until age 17 at which time the juvenile is considered an adult and can get the **** out.
Never heard of it.

How many parents are going to...... WANT.....to instuttionalize or incarcerate their children?:crazy:

We already established the fact that the parents are often the problem, and example the children mirrior.
That there along throws out your process, since those parents cannot see their own failure let alone their children, untill they are incarcerated by local govt.

Plus....your advocating more govt teet sucking and tax payer burden.
 

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Grey Squirrel
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Never heard of it.
I'm not surprised

How many parents are going to...... WANT.....to instuttionalize or incarcerate their children?:crazy:

I wish you would educate yourself before you make stupid claims. The state has the authority to make the petition should it be determined that the parent is either unwilling or unable to provide proper parental care.

We already established the fact that the parents are often the problem, and example the children mirrior.
Your specific claim was that if children choose not to listen to or abide by the parental authority the parents are powerless. When that was addressed you all of sudden want to change the scenario.

That there along throws out your process, since those parents cannot see their own failure let alone their children, untill they are incarcerated by local govt.
No, that throws out your expert opinion.

Plus....your advocating more govt teet sucking and tax payer burden.
As I have said before, if the government provided for us all equally we wouldn't have these problems.
 

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I wish you would educate yourself before you make stupid claims. The state has the authority to make the petition should it be determined that the parent is either unwilling or unable to provide proper parental care.

Your talking about the same state that fails to intervene before children commit crimes or get abused or murdered by their **** ass parents?

Fail.

States employ the same lazy govt employees in social services that strive to keep families together and do the bare bones minimum as far as intervention.
Go ask the dead toddlers and children that were in public school systems, why the states wide systems and waring signs failed to save their lives from their dirt ass parents.


anyhoo, your right that the scenario was changed by me..
 
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