Bullying has become an increasing epidemic, but one town in Wisconsin is going to start hitting the parents of bullies where it hurts the most, their pockets. Monona, Wisconsin parents whose children repeatedly bully others can now be ticketed by police and fined in municipal court.
The town didn’t cite any particular incident that led to the law, but it may set a new standard when it comes to dealing with bullies. Julie Hertzog, director of the National Bullying Prevention Center in Bloomington, Minn., said she had not heard of such a tactic and was hesitant to comment for that reason. “This is the first time it’s been on my radar,” she said.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal:
Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga said no specific incident led to the ordinance, just a general concern about the tragic consequences of bullying, including a rash of school shootings and teen suicides across the country.
He thinks the parent-liability clause will be used sparingly, if at all, and only in cases where parents are obstructive or uncooperative. He hopes the mere threat of a ticket will be enough.
“Sometimes you’ll knock on someone’s door and they won’t want to talk to you — their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong,” Ostrenga said. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.”
Parents who are making a good-faith effort to address a child’s behavior would not be ticketed, he said.
City Attorney William S. Cole called the tactic “a tool of last resort” and said he believes it would withstand a court challenge.
Parents can’t be blindsided under the ordinance. Before being ticketed, a parent or guardian must be informed in writing by an officer of a separate violation of bullying by the same minor within the prior 90 days.
A ticket is a municipal code violation, not a criminal offense. (Only the state Legislature can make something a criminal offense.)
A first violation of the parent-liability clause carries a $114 fine. Subsequent violations within the same year carry fines of $177 each.
What do you think of this town’s law? Should other cities adopt similar laws?