After-school job could be costly

October 23, 1993|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Staff Writer

Makes sense. A high school kid wants money to buy Nikes or car insurance, so he gets an after-school job. His parents and school approve, and who can argue with young people showing initiative?

But too often students work too many hours and their school work suffers, educators say. A 15-year-old student might work 40 hours a week at a fast food restaurant (more than twice as long as federal law allows). The child's grades faint.

"We have called many employers to see what hours a student is working," says Thomas Hensley, principal at Dulaney High School in Timonium. "Some employers give them 40 hours a week -- part-time they call it. We remind them about labor laws."

Nationally, an estimated 5.5 million students work after school. In 1992, the state of Maryland issued nearly 59,000 work permits for students over age 14 (it's illegal for any child younger than 14 to have a job while in school).

Unfortunately, given the choice between working hard at school and working hard at work, some students pick the latter.

Kids aren't mature enough to realize they need good grades to get a better job later," says Vicki Rafel, president of the Maryland Parent Teacher Association.

The National PTA asks parents to talk with their working teen-agers. How are you getting along with your boss? Have your duties changed? How many hours are you working?

Parents also should talk with teachers. Are my child's grades and attendance slipping?

And meet your child's employer. Tell the employer the hour limits you have set.

A guideline by the National Consumers League and the PTA says parents should ask themselves the following questions to determine if their children are overworking:

* Is your child always tired and complaining about not getting enough rest?

* Do they have time for family and friends?

* Has your child been injured on the job or have other employees been hurt at your child's workplace?

* Has your child's boss been cited for child labor violations?

* Is there adult supervision?

Ms. Rafel says, "A lot of parents don't understand they have to take a role in this."

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