I’m the type of person who usually sides with kids and young adults when it comes to issues they have with their parents. I’m a parent, I know we can be annoying and unfair and we easily forget what it was like to be 18. Growing up is hard. But after reading new allegations in the case of New Jersey’s Rachel Canning, the 18-year-old Catholic high school student who ran away to live with her friend and is now suing her parents for child support, I’m having a very difficult time finding sympathy for this girl.
According to news reports, on October 30, 2012, two days before her 18th birthday Rachel and her parents had a disciplinary hearing at Morris Catholic where she was suspended for truancy. She had previously been suspended due to alcohol involvement at a Homecoming Dance. Rachel attends the Catolic high school and is an honors student and cheerleader. After this meeting, she ran away from home to stay with one of her friends, and their parents are funding the lawsuit she has instigated against her parents. She is suing to have overdue tuition in the amount of 6,000 dollars to her high school, 654 dollars a week in child support and for her college tuition. She has already received an offer of a 20,000 dollar scholarship.
Rachel’s parents claim she left home because they had forbidden her to see her boyfriend, wanted her to start seeing a therapist and there were some other issues that needed to be addressed, like the fact Rachel had stolen one of their credit cards and had been going out late on school nights drinking.
Rachel claims she ran away from home because her parents were abusive, her mother contributed to her eating disorder, and that her father behaved inappropriately towards her.
From the Daily Mail:
‘In sophomore year i developed an eating disorder and my weight dropped to 105 pounds. In my junior year, I was down to 92 pounds. My mother kept screaming at me, saying I was mentally messed up. My father was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball because I needed to gain weight.’
She went on: ‘My father gave me the sense that he was inappropriately affectionate with me. He mentioned frequently that my relationship in his eyes was not one of a daughter, but more than that.
‘In the summer before my senior year he got me drunk at a wedding and said I was his date. He kept giving me shots and mango martinis. I blacked out that night and woke up at the toilet bowl in our room and he was in bed.‘He constantly put his arm around me in public and would kiss me on the cheek. When we moved to Hackettstown, he once woke me up at 2am to come down to play beer pong with him. The refrigerator was about 75 per cent full of liquor.’
According to the report, Rachel’s parents were on vacation in Las Vegas when she was found to be drunk at the homecoming dance. This is where this whole case gets tricky for me. Rachel was ordered to call her parents in the presence of a teacher from the dance, and when she reached them by cell phone they yelled obscenities at her. Now, I’m sorry, but parents, really think about this. You go out of town with your spouse and you get a phone call that your kid, who has gotten in trouble before, is drunk at a school dance, so what do you do? I think swearing a lot is probably a pretty reasonable reaction. When the teacher overheard the phone call, she alerted the Department of Children and Families who met with the family and cleared them of any wrongdoing. The report states that the caseworker said that Rachel was spoiled.
So we have parents who have decided to put some rules down, and a kid who didn’t like it, so she ran away from home. The judge assigned to the case is none too pleased with it either, and has stated that:
‘What kind of parents would the Canning’s be if they didn’t try to set down some strict rules?
A phone message left for Liz Canning, Rachel’s mother, was submitted to the court where Rachel stated:
‘Hi mom just to let you know you’re a real fucking winner aren’t you you think you’re so cool and you think you caught me throwing up in the bathroom after eating an egg frittatta, yeah sorry that you have problems now and you need to harp on mine because i didn’t and i actually took a shit which i really just wanna shit all over your face right now because it looks like that anyway, anyway i fucking hate you and um I’ve written you off so don’t talk to me, don’t do anything I’m blocking you from just about everything, have a nice life, bye mom’
Rachel has two younger sisters at home.
Now, I know we don’t know all the details in the case. It’s fair to say that because of this there could be deeper issues at hand, and a dad serving alcohol to his young daughter does trouble me. But I agree with the judge in the case who stated:
‘We have to ask ourselves, do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in constant fear of enforcing the basic rules of the house. If they set a rule a child doesn’t like, the child can move out, move in with another family, seek child support, cars, cell phone and a few hundred grand to go to college.
‘Counsel, also needs to ask themselves, what is the next step…. Are we going to open the gates for a 12-year-old to sue for an Xbox, a 13-year-old to sue for an iPhone… what about a 15-year-old asking for a 60 inch TV….
‘I want both counsels to think of the potential slippery slope here.
I also can’t understand the parents of the friend who Rachel is living with financing her lawsuit. The father of the friend, John Inglesino, wrote in a letter submitted to the court:
‘Rachel is likeable, communicates exceptionally well and is highly motivated to attend and excel at a college appropriate for her. That is why my wife and I have decided to fund this lawsuit. We know that if Mr. and Mrs. Canning are not required to fulfil their legal obligations as parents, that Rachel’s ability to fulfil her potential will be greatly diminished,’
They have already paid $12,597 for Rachel’s lawyer.
This whole thing sounds to me like even though Rachel’s parents had started therapy for her eating disorders and tried to work with their daughter in setting up some rules, she moved out just because she didn’t like it. I’m sure this was their way of showing some sort of tough love and maybe they wanted Rachel to see what life would be like if they weren’t supporting her. They probably weren’t expecting her to move in with a friend who had parents willing to pay for her to sue them. The news report talks about Rachel’s parents breaking down in tears in court and I can’t help think that this whole thing is extremely unfair to the younger siblings who still live at home. All of the focus is on this mess and it can’t be easy on them.
The judge has set a date for the secondary hearing, but advised that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence up until now to suggest she would win the case.
I think this whole thing should just be solved by ordering Rachel to return home, since she expects her parents to support her, and for all of them to get family therapy. I just know if this were my daughter I’d have a hard time dealing with all of this.
(Image: Daily Mail Video)