WHEN EIGHTH GRADER TONYA Kline, 15, returned to school last month after 10 weeks in a detention center, the kids in her homeroom gawked. Lunch period at College Park Middle School in Ladson, S.C., was even worse. “Look at that,” a boy called out, gaping at Tonya being led through the cafeteria on a chain gripped by her mother, Deborah Harter. “What,” Tonya shot back, “haven’t you ever seen anybody in shackles before?”
In fact, Tonya—who had been running with the wrong crowd for two years—actually chose to be chained to her mother 24 hours a day (aside from bathroom breaks). It was either that, said Berkeley County Family Court
Judge Wayne M. Creech, or she could go back to the juvenile detention center. So Tonya will remain on her short leash till Jan. 27, when Creech has scheduled a sentencing hearing on reported truancy, shoplifting and burglary charges against her.
The order, which is enforced by surprise checks, has considerably altered the daily routine for Tonya and Harter, 38. Something as simple as walking the family dog (Nakita, an Akita) through their Summerville neighborhood has become an awkward chore. “She’s got to walk me, so the dog’s out of the picture,” says Tonya. Cooking is so complicated that Richard Harter, 35, Tonya’s stepfather and a Navy petty officer, has
resorted to buying their dinner at fast-food drive-throughs. And when it’s time to call it a day, Deborah must sleep on a couch alongside her daughter’s bed.
At first the punishment had its positive side. “She’s staying out of trouble, and the two of us are closer,” said Harter (whose son Shawn, 16, has also had brushes with the law). And Tonya was glad to be out of the “cold, nasty” detention center. “That was torture,” she says, “but this is starting to be torture too.” Lately the punishment has started to wear on Harter, who was ordered to give up cigarettes and cocktails around her daughter. “I never committed a crime,” says Harter. “I’m telling you, I need a break.”