High school student’s lawsuit against parents indicates sense of entitlement, lack of maturity


Our generation has somewhat of a bad rap. We’re often perceived as technology addicted, selfish and naive. Now, while I disagree with these stereotypes wholeheartedly, situations like the one that’s been unfolding in Lincoln Park, N.J. really don’t do much to help my stance.

Rachel Canning, an 18-year-old honor roll student and cheerleader in her senior year at Morris Catholic High School (a private high school in Denville, N.J.), attempted to sue her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, for a boatload of financial assistance after she left home late in October.

She alleged that she was subject to “severe verbal and physical abuse” at home, according to her court certification. Canning requested that her parents to pay tuition for her final semester at the private high school (close to $5,000), as well as living and travel expenses. Furthermore, she wanted her parents to legally commit to paying her college tuition, in addition to reimbursing the legal fees her friend’s parents had been paying since the lawsuit began.

If you ask her parents, the alleged “abuse” consisted of nothing more than simple household expectations like doing chores and abiding by a curfew. According to a CNN by Laura Ly published Wednesday, after the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency interviewed Canning, her parents, and her two younger sisters, they found the allegations of abuse to be unfounded.

The family’s problems began in October when Canning was suspended from her high school for truancy. Her parents told her she could no longer see her boyfriend, who was also suspended, and took away her phone and car privileges. Court documents, cited in Ly’s CNN article, said that after learning of the punishments, Canning cut class again and then left home. She spent two nights at her boyfriend’s house, then moved in with a friend’s family where she’s stayed ever since. Her friend’s parents, John and Amy Inglesino, have been footing the bill for Canning’s lawsuit against her parents.

To me, this whole situation reeks of a gross sense of entitlement. Canning, a legal adult, feels her parents owe her a car, a phone, a roof over her head and a college education while she ignores their rules.

I feel horrible for Canning’s family. Rather than accepting the consequences for her suspension, she chose to drag her parents and two younger sisters into the national spotlight, putting them through what has to be a gut-wrenching emotional experience, not to mention the legal fees they now have to pay just to clear their name.

To her parent’s credit, they seem to be taking the high road; they’ve indicated that Canning will be welcomed back with open arms should she decide to come home and make amends.

The Inglesinos, the family supporting this absurd legal battle, should have known better than to get involved in another family’s business. Giving Canning a place to stay is one thing, but enabling behavior like this is inexcusable. According to Canning’s certification, Morris Catholic peer ministers are raising money to pay her tuition for the spring semester, which also adds fuel to the fire. I hope the high school’s students recognize that donating to this cause under the guise of charity is hypocritical to the core.

An excerpt from Canning’s court certification proves just how out of touch with reality she is:

“‘I am a very good student,’ she wrote. ‘I have no drug problems. I am a good athlete. I work at a job outside of school. My parents simply will not help me any longer … (They) should be required to provide for my support and education until I can stand on my own two feet. In order to do this, I had to take legal action.'”

She seems to think that because she does the things that “normal” high schoolers are expected to do, she deserves unlimited financial support from her parents no matter how she treats them. This self-serving and manipulative attitude is indicative of her striking lack of maturity. Canning ought to be ashamed. I can only hope that she comes to her senses and realizes she’s taken things too far.

Fortunately, the judge seems to be emerging as one of the few level-headed characters in this drama. On Tuesday, Bogaard denied Canning’s request for the remainder of her high school tuition. He also denied immediate financial assistance on the grounds that he didn’t see an emergency situation. Further decisions about Canning’s parents paying for her college tuition will be made at another hearing.

I’m terrified of the precedent this would set if, by some miracle, Canning comes out on top in this lawsuit. Teens across the country will be suing right and left to go to college for free without holding up their end of the bargain.

Young adults throughout the country should learn from this situation. If you’re lucky enough to be in a position where your parents can send you to college, be grateful and accept their authority. Not everyone gets this head start in life; to look at it as a fundamental right is despicable and immature.

Mike Stanton is a sophomore in mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.