DETROIT - The night Demarco Harris shot and killed a woman during a street robbery, his parents told police knocking on their door at 2 a.m. they didn't know where their 12-year-old was.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that's indicative of a larger issue in Detroit, where the lack of making parents accountable for their children partly is blamed on elevated truancy and dropout rates, as well as a recent rash of violent crimes involving teens.
Worthy has a new idea she hopes will fix the problem: Jail parents for up to 3 days for repeatedly missing scheduled parent-teacher conferences.
"I have seen that younger and younger children are committing more violent acts and we need to look at different approaches," Worthy told reporters. "We should not have to legislate this, but what we have been doing is not working."
She's still working on the details, but once her proposal is finished, she hopes to present it to county commissioners in August and persuade them to approve an ordinance. After that, she may take it to state legislators in Lansing.
It's unlikely to become an ordinance quickly because it would probably be challenged in court. Even some teachers, who often spend several hours waiting for parents who don't show up for the conferences, are skeptical.
"I understand the prosecutor's concern, but jail time?" said Detroit middle school teacher Ann Crowley.
Worthy first considered her proposal after a spate of shootings involving students that culminated in the June 2009 wounding of seven teens at a city bus stop. The Demarco Harris trial convinced her she was on the right track.
He had been in and out of school a lot and his parents rarely met with his teachers.
Harris, now 13, was convicted in May of killing Trisha Babcock, 24. He was sentenced to a high-security juvenile lockup.
"We're trying to prevent any more Demarco Harrises from going down that road," Worthy said.