Paying for the Sins of the Parent

A Massachusetts Little League team suspended a 7-year-old boy because his mother missed her shift at a concession stand, leading some critics to question whether the child should really have to pay for the sins of his parent.

"It's my fault. I get it. I really do," said Freetown, Mass., mother Jodie Hooper, whose son will not be allowed to compete in the next two games because of her failure to staff the league's refreshment stand. "Being suspended means the child did something wrong. The child didn't do anything wrong. That's where I'm having an issue with it."

According to the rules of the Freetown Youth Athletic Association, parents are required to show up for their assigned concession stand shifts or risk suspensions for their children. The league depends on revenue from the snack sales to support itself.

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"It's a tough rule to have to enforce because everyone — I don't want to say an excuse — but everybody has things to do," Freetown Youth Athletic Association president Dave Brouillett said.

But critics think the decision is too harsh.

"It's an illegal contract. You're holding the child liable for what the parent is supposed to do," child psychologist Dr. Michael Bradley said. "What popped in my head: The poor kid sitting on the bench, not able to play, feeling ashamed and sad for something he had no control over. It wasn't his contract. It was the mother's fault."

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This situation isn't the first to spark debate about how much a child or parent should be made to suffer for the sins of the other.

Judge David Niehaus of Butler County, Ohio, Juvenile Court last week sentenced Hamilton, Ohio, father Brian Gegner to six months in jail after his daughter Brittany Gegner failed to complete her court mandated GED courses.

Niehaus blamed Brian Gegner for his daughter's truancy.

"I'm about to be 19 and I mean my dad's getting punished for something I did when I was 16. I should [be punished] if anybody [is going to] be punished for this. I would way rather me go to jail than my dad," Brittany said.

Another judge later overturned the sentence, but not before Brian Gegner spent a few nights in jail.

While some found the sentence unfair, others said Niehaus may have had good reason for the initial sentence.

"It depends. If the father is negligent, blowing things off and not trying, he deserved a consequence of some sort," Bradley said.

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