“It’s 10:00 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” This public service announcement (PSA) first appeared on television in 1967, when several cities in the northeast began imposing curfews on teenagers. The term curfew means different things to different people. For someone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, it usually represents an arbitrary time set by parents for when their child should return home. For today’s parent, it is a legally required time for his or her child to be off the streets at night.
“My parents did not have a set time for me to be home, but I was usually home by midnight on the weekends,” recalls Dr. Pointer, Upper School History. Teenagers often view curfew as an unfair requirement that cuts into their social time with friends. People who do not have children or are not teenagers themselves may not be familiar with the concept. Texas, like many states, has enacted curfew laws limiting the hours minors are allowed to be on the streets without an adult present.
Currently, Fort Worth’s ordinance prohibits individuals 17 or under from being on the streets between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on the weekends. Even those familiar with these restrictions may not be aware that the ordinance also prohibits teenagers from driving between 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. during the school week. This lack of awareness may be partly due to the fact that the daytime provision was added 15 years after the initial law was passed, and it is still relatively new (added in 2009).
The nighttime curfew was enacted to reduce crime and to prevent teens from being victims of crime, according to Police Chief at the time, Thomas Windham. The daytime curfew was presumably added to discourage truancy. The penalty for violating the curfew law ranges from getting a ticket with a fine of $200-$500, to suspension of one’s license. There are some exceptions that allow teenagers to be out past curfew, which include being accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, night jobs, school functions and emergencies. In some cities, parents who are aware and allow their child to violate curfew could be given a fine or other forms of punishment. Parents could be held liable in any situation where their child is out in public past curfew because they are ultimately responsible for the whereabouts of their children.
Even though most Upper School students know about the teen curfew law, some choose not to follow it, like when they are out with friends.
“I think curfew is pointless because it should be the parents’ decision not the law’s”, said Jacob Matlock ’20. Although some teenagers disagree with the law and choose not to follow it, it was put in place to keep them safe and off the streets, out of trouble.