Parent urged to support bill that would hold parents criminally liable if child has a party

My 14yo’s school sent me an e-mail yesterday, urging me to support passage of Mississippi House Bill 722, the “Social Host” bill as they call it:

Summary of the Bill – The “Social Host Bill is designed to prohibit adults from allowing a party to take place at a private residence/premises where alcohol is being consumed. This applies to any adult who knows or who should reasonably know that alcohol is being consumed. Violators of this act are punished with a misdemeanor and would receive criminal penalties in the form of a $1,000 fine and/or county jail imprisonment up to 90 days.”

I wrote back that I wasn’t quite sure which of my son’s friends’ parents I would want to see jailed under such a law, but I appreciated learning the school’s attitude towards the parents.

Call me an unreconstructed Democrat bleeding-heart, but I do not think that criminal penalties for parents are a particularly appropriate tactic here. And while there are doubtless crimes where one “reasonably should have known” this or that, the standard still makes me uneasy. My kid has a sleepover and they creep out of bed at 2 a.m. to sneak some bourbon out of the cabinet. Should I reasonably have known they would do that? Why didn’t I have the cabinet locked? Why did I even have alcohol in my house? Do I want a jury to make these decisions?

Thus Blogged
2/5/10