AUBURN GRESHAM — If the Rev. Johnny Banks Sr. had his way, parents would be financially responsible for the misdeeds of their children.
The minister said he plans to lobby state lawmakers to create legislation that would make parents financially responsible for their children under age 18. Such a law, he said, would help reduce crime and truancy.
"I cannot understand why society does not hold parents responsible for the actions of their children," said Banks, a father of six and executive director of the nonprofit A Knock At Midnight.
Imagine how the number of shootings in Chicago could drop "if parents [of the shooter] had to pay the medical expenses for the victim and reimburse the city for police man hours," he said.
Parents attending a Monday workshop at the organization's headquarters, 400 W. 76th St., had mixed reactions about Banks' idea.
"I really believe that that would be a good thing because parenting should come from the home and not the streets. I think if parents were held accountable all this crime out here would stop," said Lisa Wilson, a 51-year-old Englewood resident and mother of three adult children.
She added that such legislation would also push parents to make sure their teenage children go to school.
But James Johnson, a 45-year-old Auburn Gresham resident and father of five, said Banks' suggestion is "ridiculous."
"You cannot control some teenagers. You can only teach your children so much and go so far with them," Johnson said. He added that parents may not have the means to pay for their children's mistakes.
Banks had an answer for that, saying that if parents did not have the means, their wages should be garnisheed, a lien placed against any property they own or their tax refunds intercepted.
"This debt should be treated like any other debt owed. I guarantee you parents would police their children more if they were the ones paying for their mishaps," Banks said. "And that old argument that parents are too poor to pay is not true. There's a difference between being poor and broke."
Banks said any parents needing fresh ideas on how to better monitor their children should attend his organization's free parenting classes from 6:30-8 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Most of the parents who attend the classes are young mothers, although Banks said about 20 percent are men. Among the things taught at the classes are the difference between "modern" and traditional parenting, conflict resolution, time management, relationship-building between both parents and anger management.
Only one student took him up on his offer, and that student is working at Harper as an assistant in the athletic department, Banks said.
"I should have made the job offer to the parents instead. I'll bet that would have produced better results," Banks said.
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