There’s no denying that bullying is a problem for children in schools all across the country. The problem isn’t so much kids being kids – that’s been happening for decades – it’s that bullying has escalated to a dangerous boiling point. It isn’t as simple as a one-off fist fight anymore; now, kids are bringing dangerous weapons to school and threatening to murder each other and even their teachers.
• Last year, North Tonawanda, New York, made an attempt to squash bullying and its associated dangers by threatening to criminally charge parents for their children’s behaviors.
• If charged, parents could be fined $250 or find themselves spending up to 15 days in jail. The potential for more serious sentencing does exist, especially with repeat offenders.
• The same law also criminalizes kids breaking the town curfew. If kids are caught wandering outside after curfew, the town may charge the parent for not providing better supervision.
• Greg Woytila, who serves as superintendent for the North Towanda School District, clarified the rule when it was first announced. “We hope to never need to use this law but it’s there in extreme cases,” he said. “But we need to do a better job and we are continually trying to do that.”
• Not everyone agreed with the law when it first rolled out, and there is very little proof it is even effective. We couldn’t find any examples of the law being used to punish parents, though young offender regulations may keep such cases out of the public eye.
• We did find at least one statement from local lawmakers clarifying that the law is a worst-case scenario control effort. Common Council President Eric Zadzilka said, “It’s really up to the judge’s discretion, and it’s more for repeat offenders.”
How do you feel about penalizing parents for the crimes or cruelty their children commit? Is it a good way to encourage parents to have more control, or does it come close to penalizing the wrong person? Should kids who bully face criminal charges, or are there better methods?