Rachel Canning is 18 years old. According to her school, she is an excellent student with strong results (grades in US-speak). She lives in New Jersey and would probably pass unnoticed except that she is currently suing her parents to pay for her education. For this reason, she now has 1.8 million Google results to her name.
The facts appear to be that her father and mother laid down some basic rules for the teenager; tidy room, courteous behaviour, observing a curfew, household chores and perhaps an end to a relationship with a boyfriend who they felt was a bad influence. Rachel refused to abide by these rules and left home to live with a friend. She now maintains her parents should be paying for her private school fees, her future colleges fees and her living costs. Her father Sean has said that Rachel was an "incredibly rebellious teenager” who had also bullied her sister and been expelled twice from school for disciplinary problems. Rachel is currently living with her best friend whose father, a lawyer, is funding Rachel’s legal action against her parents.
The hearing, scheduled for today in the US, will discuss Rachel’s request of her parents, Sean and Elizabeth, to pay “an outstanding $5,306 Morris Catholic tuition bill, plus their daughter’s current living and transportation fees, and commit an existing college fund to her” in addition to their daughter’s (anticipated) legal fees, which are $12,597 to date.
Rachel’s father, Sean, a retired police chief, said that a representative for child protection services had visited their family home and “found nothing amiss”.
He added that the investigation was discontinued after the officer concluded that Rachel was “spoiled.”
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Rachel sounds quite the high achieving, all-American girl - cheerleader, lacrosse player, scholarship winner and honours student. It’s quite a roll call. But, to be honest, give me a low achieving daughter any day if she won’t take me to court because I expect her to abide by our house rules, not bully her sister and to pay her own way if she bails.
I know America is no longer the land of the free and is instead the land of the litigious, but is this for real that an 18-year-old can live where she wants and take her parents to court to fund, not just her living expenses, but her college fees as well? Where is the freedom in this for the parents? If living at home was a total pain in the butt – and what teenager hasn’t thought that at some stage? – then of course Rachel should be free to leave and make her own way in the world. Plenty of 18-year-olds have done that before. But to expect her parents to cough up the dough to fund her lifestyle – wherever and with whomever she wants – is crazy gone mad.
Maybe Rachel is spoilt, maybe she is not. But obtaining a court settlement forcing her parents to pay for her future living costs would certainly help her become so. Life is hard, there are no free kicks. Rachel clearly doesn’t have a lot of time or concern for her parents or she would go and see them and try to sort this mess out, one presumes. The fact her friend’s dad is a lawyer is plain bad luck as few lawyers want dispute resolution over a court case. So here she is, heading into a court battle which will test the resolve of all associated. Good luck to the adjudicators – and if I may say so, I, for one, hope Rachel’s parents get to keep their hard-earned savings.
What say you? Does Rachel have a point, if not a strong case? Should parents be obligated to pay their kids further education costs regardless of their behaviour in the family home?
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