Use Alternatives to Curfew for Children

April 17, 2013
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In a community where many members have teenage children, managers sometimes have problems with children spray painting and otherwise vandalizing buildings at night in the community. How can you stop the graffiti and vandalism? You might think that imposing a curfew and prohibiting children under a certain age—say, 16 years old—from being outside after a certain time—say, 10 p.m.—unless accompanied by an adult is a simple solution.

Watch out: Fair housing laws prohibit you from discriminating against families with children. Your plan to restrict the activities of children falls within this prohibition. Even though you may have a legitimate business reason for the curfew, the curfew still violates the law. Why? The problem with a curfew for children is that it targets particular people, instead of particular behavior. To be legal, you would need to apply the curfew to everyone, not just children, because adults are just as capable as children of spray painting graffiti.

The only kind of rule you can impose that singles out children is one designed solely to protect them from harm. And to do so, you’ll need to prove that children are at risk and that your policy is the least restrictive way to adequately protect them. For example, a rule preventing children under a certain age from swimming unsupervised is permissible.

Instead of a curfew, try increasing security, if the association can afford it. Using security cameras, or even asking your security guards to patrol the grounds more often can help you catch anyone who’s defacing community property. An added bonus is that it could cut down on other types of potential crimes, and it’ll make members feel safer in the community after dark.

 

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