Monday, June 3, 2013

City of Monona to fine parents of bullies

City council hopes to curb bullying by bringing concerns to bullies' homes

The City of Monona has taken a stand against bullying that may actually work...

...fine the parents if their kids are persistent bullyers.

The Monona City Council passed the measure last month (PDF), which levies fines on parents of bullies if they continually harass their peers.

It’s an unprecedented move that, so far as anyone can tell, hasn’t been adopted anywhere else in the nation.

The law wouldn’t target parents of first-time bullyers, but rather those whose children are consistent offenders. Before receiving a ticket, parents would have to be informed of a bullying incident that had occurred within the past 90 days. If the child continued to bully after the initial warning, the parents could then be fined.

Parents would receive a ticket of $114 for the first violation (following the warning), and $177 for every violation thereafter for the next year.

Does this policy goes to far? Jason Burns of Equality Wisconsin thinks not. Speaking to the Wisconsin State Journal, Burns said “[i]t forces parents to be more involved in their child’s life, if they’re not already.”

That’s certainly true: parents would be less likely to overlook their child’s behavior when an officer comes to their door warning them they could face fines if their kid keeps bullying.

They’d be even more likely to do something about it if their child’s bullying ended up costing them hundreds of dollars.

The measure may seem a bit extreme to some, but the effects of bullying can be devastating on a developing child’s psyche. Indeed, the nation is facing a bullying crisis right now that can take place on the playground or in the lunch room, as well as on the internet.

Implementing the law will have its challenges, as there are many questions that aren’t addressed by the resolution. For example, what about kids who have behavioral disorders, who cause disruptions to their peers not on purpose but through a condition that’s not always manageable?

The statute seems to address that, though indirectly. Bullying is defined as “an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no other purpose.” Actions that stem from behavioral disorders are not always intentional, so that may allow some leeway for kids who can’t always control their emotions or actions.

Still, others may criticize the law for furthering the “nanny state,” a conservative idiom that implies there is already too much government intrusion in our lives. This municipal code does indeed hit close to home -- the police knocking at your door for the things your kid did or said to another kid at school that day would have many parents asking, “isn’t this a bit far?”

But to prevent constant bullying, to eliminate abuse of a child at the hands of one of their peers, is the underlying goal of this policy. Getting the parents involved will be a good step in the right direction. And if the parents refuse to get involved, they themselves will get punished for their inaction.

It may seem like much -- but it might also work.


  1. Nanny state politics... Why don't the school teachers get fined as well for allowing the Bullying to occur in the public schools? Perhaps instead of being fined, parents of bullies should have the right to surrender their "bully" to the state for care & rehabilitation at the taxpayer expense?

    1. Anonymous is such an idiot and reeks of the GOP propaganda machine. It is not a teacher's responsibility for student behavior problems whether it is in a public or private school. Putting more pressure on the parents is the best solution.