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'No Pay, No Play' Child-Support Bill Advances

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The Michigan Senate has sent a strong message to teenage parents who fall behind on their child support: No pay, no play.

By a 31-4 vote on Feb. 8, the Senate passed a bill that would bar student parents who miss more than four weeks of payments from sports and other extracurricular activities, including drama, debate, and school publications.

"We're sending a message of personal responsibility, and we do owe an obligation to young mothers," said Sen. Mike Rogers, a Republican who sponsored the bill. "If we can't teach a parent to be responsible when they're a teenager, very soon they're going to be adults."

The measure would place responsibility for restricting the students from extracurricular activities with local Friend of the Court offices, which deal with custody, child welfare, and other family issues. State guidelines require a typical student parent with a part-time job to pay about $8 a week in child support.

The bill is the latest chapter in Michigan's push to rebuild the state's welfare system. House committees are expected to take up the bill later this month.

Effectiveness Questioned

Reaction to the vote from around the state varied.

Some school officials said the bill sends an important message about the level of responsibility expected from young fathers. Others complained of the additional administrative burden.

"It's a punishment and a sanction, but I can't see that it's going to end up in the greater good of the infant child," said Rossi Ray-Taylor, the deputy superintendent for instruction in the 20,100-student Lansing school district.

Felecia Morris, who graduated last June from a Detroit high school for students who are pregnant or have children, agreed. Ms. Morris, 19, hasn't received any payments from the father of her 16-month-old baby, and is working with the father through the courts to seek support.

Despite her situation, she opposes the bill.

"I don't think they should include the schools; I think they should get to the point and keep it with the courts," said Ms. Morris, who is now a secretary at her alma mater, the 250-student Nancy Boykin School.

Ms. Morris added that not all the young women at the school oppose the measure. "They had to survive for nine months without doing a lot of things they wanted," she said. "They feel the men are getting off scot-free."

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