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Parents of Bullies Must Pay – Literally

Parents of Bullies Must Pay – Literally

Kids bully each other. That’s just the way it is.

Or that’s the way it was. I grew up in the age of “just ignore it,” or, even dumber, “if he calls you names and chases you it means he likes you.” No, it means he is a budding sociopath (“60% of those characterized as bullies in grades 6-9 will have at least one criminal conviction by age 24.”). At the very least, he (or she, quite often) is mean. And he definitely doesn’t “like” me, especially with the “has a crush” that was always implied.

(What was that about, anyway? Teaching girls that bullying is a sign of affection? Way to go on that one, baby boomers.)

Things have changed. My generation (X) and our successors must have grown tired of being harassed at school and lied to at home, because today’s parents, school officials and activists are changing the rules. Adults are teaching children that bullying is unacceptable and that kids have the power to stop it. Schools display posters and administer programs against it.

At the same time, things are much scarier for today’s kids. A recent rash of suicides by bullying victims leaves no doubt that it is not something people can just ignore.

Bullying starts in preschool, as those innocent little cherubs people coo over practice dominating others and indulging their aggression. It peaks in middle school, but it never stops.

Back in the day victims could not recruit allies like their parents or teachers. If they told, the bullying would likely escalate; better to keep your trap closed and endure. Now a town in Wisconsin has adopted an ordinance meant to stop bullying and “to give victims of bullying hope that someone will take their concerns seriously,” said Monona Mayor Bob Miller.

The new law could force bullies’ parents to do some parenting. If they don’t stop their kids’ abusive behavior, they will get hit where it hurts: their wallets. Monona’s ordinance targets repeat offenders whose parents refuse to curb them. “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,” said Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.” The city’s attorney calls the fine “a tool of last resort.”

The fine is $114 the first time. Each subsequent violation in the same year costs another $177. Parents will get written notice before they are fined.

The ordinance defines bullying as “an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no legitimate purpose.” (For a more comprehensive and nuanced definition, visit the National Bullying Prevention Center.)

The LGBT community has taken up the anti-bullying cause with “It Gets Better” videos and other campaigns, because many kids whose peers perceive them as outside traditional gender stereotypes get a lot of abuse. Rape victims are another group bullies target, with the perpetrators themselves often circulating photos of the crime via social media and others following up with victim blaming.

Most victims fall outside of any special interest group’s sphere. They need the new anti-bullying movement. Kudos to Monona, Wisconsin, for innovation in moving the ball forward for all these kids.

The next frontier for anti-bullying campaigns should be the workplace. As a lawyer who represented employees against their employers, I heard harrowing tales of supervisors creating a toxic, emotionally damaging environment by bullying subordinates. It isn’t illegal, but maybe someday places like Monona will make it so. Until then, we all have a responsibility to stand up to adult bullies. Human Resources professionals: you should be on the front lines of this fight to protect people who speak out. Just don’t tell employees to “ignore it”: no one can do that, and no one should have to.

 

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Photo credit: Digital Vision

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156 comments

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10:42AM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

I was bullied in elementary school due to being a foster child and such. I stood up for myself and was popular throughout middle school and esp high school. But many are never able to overcome the bullying, and for many it only escelates. so sad. changes are necessary, too many parents leave it to the schools to parent their children. they oughtn't even HAVE children

4:42PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

anything that will help, i am in full support of. Too many parents are in denial about their children, force them to face it. Bullying should be zero tolerance, everywhere. Period.And until the number of teen suicides caused by bullies drops significantly, I say do what you gotta do.

9:07PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

bullying can have such a bad effect on a child, that they can actually wind up with PTSD among other life destroying psychological problems.

YES, do it !

It's against the law , so ENFORCE IT !

2:58PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

MORE GOOD NEWS, THANKS

7:59PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

good idea fine them more though

4:38PM PDT on Jun 10, 2013

Bullying is horrible, and if making them pay or maybe even jail because it's harassment works, so be it.

6:57AM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

Thank you Piper, for Sharing this!

Absolutely!

2:25AM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

Terry T: I never said "mature" people bully. Read my post again. I said in some job settings ( I know this from experience) supervisors assume people will handle peer problems somehow on their own if they're "mature" enough. This is a wrong assumption. Some people can handle the bullying while others can't often due to circumstances not necessarily connected to their personalities.

2:06AM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

thank you for the article.

“if he calls you names and chases you it means he likes you.” No, it means he is a budding sociopath (so true!)

9:48PM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Hey, it's about time somebady did something that was effective!

One possible, & likely problem (the way society's going), I see is if activists use it to silence legitimate duscussion on issues such as "gay rights, etc.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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