Community split on proposal to punish parents for children's crimes

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Families and community leaders are divided on whether one city in Fulton County should hold parents legally responsible for their children's crimes.

City of South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis held a community input session Monday night to gather feedback on her proposed "parental accountability ordinance."

Willis first drafted the plan at the end of 2017 and has since revised it. The ordinance would give municipal judges the power to require parents or guardians to attend a parenting class or another diversion program if their child is found to have committed a crime. If the parent fails to complete the program or if the child offends again, a judge could penalize the parent with a $25 to $100 fine, community service, or up to 30 days in jail.

"I was definitely shocked that someone would put together an ordinance that would basically, I feel, attack all parents," said Angelia Bankston, who has lived in South Fulton County for 25 years and opposes the ordinance. "All kids slip up. No parent can say that their child will not do something. I can't say it and I work with children and I have three of my own."

While many people at Monday's meeting were against the plan, many others said they support it.

"Something has to happen. What's happening now is not effective," explained Cynthia Jackson, whose home has been broken into twice. "So, something has to give and the residents shouldn't be responsible for bearing the burden."

Councilwoman Willis said she does not plan to hold any more public input sessions, but the ordinance will require two readings before the full council can vote. She said she will likely bring the issue to her fellow council members in February.