Daily Herald opinion: A reminder of need for community-parent partnership in keeping kids safe at night
"It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"
For years in the late 1960s and '70s, that bit of parental arm twisting ominously preceded nightly televised local newscasts around the country, with some variation based on time zones. Eventually, it became so common that it began to sound like a parody of itself and after a while, it quietly slipped away from the nightly routine.
Maybe it's time to bring it back.
One instance of trouble in a single locale does not a widespread trend make, of course, but the new curfew imposed in Chicago this week bears consideration. After a period of time with young people congregating in Chicago's Loop, leading to shootings near The Bean that resulted in injuries to two people and the death of a teenager, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order Monday moving the city's weekend curfew for unaccompanied minors up an hour, to 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m., in the area around Millennium Park.
The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to object, arguing that the mayor was exceeding her statutory authority and was preempting those who should be the rightful monitors of young people's behavior -- their parents.
"Frankly, we have a mechanism in society for defining when children and young people should be home and when they can be out. We call those 'parents,'" said ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka. "We don't really need the government to be telling people when they should be home."
Well, yes and no.
With limits and under certain circumstances, local governments already tell some people -- notably the very young -- when they should be home. As our Jake Griffin reported Tuesday, most suburbs have curfews for minors that begin at 11 p.m. and end at 6 p.m.
But as authorities told Griffin and Lightfoot said herself, it's not as if governments or police are rounding up children late at night and dragging them off to jail.
"What we've seen in other areas of the city when issues have arisen is, our officers talk to the young people, educate them about what the rules are and, in most instances, the young people disperse without any incident," the mayor said. "That's what we're hoping will happen."
She said -- and we think most suburban leaders would agree -- her hope is that in setting a curfew, the city can work with parents and guardians to enforce "community norms."
"Parents, guardians, you cannot just send your children out into the streets -- no matter the destination -- without knowing where they are going, who they are with and making sure that there is a responsible adult with them to make sure that they safely conduct themselves in public and that they safely return home," Lightfoot added.
Suburban police told Griffin they rarely deal with curfew violations, but do see more issues as the summer nights heat up. That time is almost upon us, so, parents, keep this in mind and help make sure things don't get to the point where authorities have to step in.
Be able every night at 10 or 11 o'clock to tell where your kids are -- even if no one on television asks.