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A Controversial Measure To Stop School Bullying

A City in Wisconsin recently passed an ordinance designed to combat the problem of school bullying. The ordinance allows officials to assess fines to the parents of children who engage in bullying behavior. This is just the latest attempt to force parents to take an active role in policing their children when it comes to bullying. Whether the measure is proper is a matter of heated debate. Whether the fines will be effective is something that should be analyzed going forward.

Many parents claim to be surprised when they are confronted with allegations that their children are bullying others. Some believe the behavior is an acceptable part of growing up. Others believe that their children are blameless or were provoked. Still others ignore the issue, unconcerned about the conduct of their children. Fines could certainly make a difference with the final group as financial penalties provide an incentive to take action. The fines would also encourage parents to let go of old beliefs about bullying being a natural and accepted part of growing up. 

Many critics of the new measure consider the law capricious. They point out that children are not mentally equipped to conduct themselves as adults. They worry that parental engagement might not be enough in some cases to prevent bullying. In those cases, a truly blameless parent could be fined under the law.

The problem is that parents do have a responsibility to teach their children not to bully others. Just as school administrators should not be allowed to turn a blind eye to bullying, parents of bullies need to take steps to prevent continued abuse. Holding them legally responsible is one way to ensure that parents take reports of bullying seriously.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "Wisconsin city to fine parents $681 if their kids bully. Is that fair?," by Bamzi Banchiri, 5 May 2016 

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