May 1, 2016
Wisconsin Bully Ordinance Could Cost Parents As Much As $1,047 Per Child

The Wisconsin bully ordinance that fines parents for their children's bullying behaviors has been touted as revolutionary by many parental figures and school officials, but as it turns out, it's not the first of its kind.

While Shawano, Wisconsin, seeks to impose steep and escalating fines on parents unable to get their bullying children under control, fellow Wisconsin city, Plover, had already enacted an ordinance earlier last year, according to Stevens Point Journal.

Under the terms of the earlier Wisconsin bully ordinance, parents would receive a $124 fine if their children were in trouble a second time for bullying other kids after 90 days.

Where the latest Wisconsin bully ordinance out of Shawano differs is that the fines are much more severe, and they grow after the first incident.

According to LawNewz, parents are initially warned of the behavior. If it happens again after 90 days, the first fine amount is for $366; if it happens again inside a year, a second fine of $681 is imposed, meaning that parents to chronic bullies could be out as much as $1,047 per child in a year's time.

It wasn't clear what might happen after more than two offenses, or if at any point parents might be held criminally liable.

Kyle Jones, the mother of a 16-year-old autistic son who has been the victim of bullies, said she welcomed the ordnance.

"He shouldn't have to even deal with it," Jones said. "I don't think he should have to come to me every day and say, 'Help, it happened again.' And he doesn't even act like it's something that shouldn't be happening, and it's not right. And no kid, no kid should go through that."

The anti-bullying push has been strong over the last several years, but cities have been understandably hesitant to follow in the proverbial footsteps of the Wisconsin bully ordinance.

According to MSNBC, the City Council of Carson, California, was one such city unwilling to pull the trigger on a tough anti-bullying measure.

After easily passing an initial vote, the council reversed course when they heard objections from the ACLU and a number of anti-bullying organizations.

Everyone from kindergarten-aged children to adults up to 25 years would have been subject to financial penalties if they "terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested" others, according to the language of the proposed ordinance.

First-time offenders would have been hit with a $100 fine. For second incidents, the fine rose to $200, followed by possible criminal misdemeanor charges for three or more offenses.

"The biggest issue you deal with is always 'he said, she said,'" said Thomas Rich, cyber safety expert for STOPit, an anti-cyberbullying school program. "As a parent, I know what I teach my kids and I have to provide them with the tools to be a good person."

The Wisconsin bully ordinance recently passed by Shawano is sure to face the same scrutiny that gave Carson's City Council pause.

It's likely that, if left on the books, this and others like it could end up being overturned by courts, but until there is a challenge, it's anyone's guess. As for what commenters online are saying about it, one man at LawNewz described his mixed feelings in a way that best summed it up.

"This is another of those 'feel good' campaigns that I have mixed feelings on," Gary said. "Are there real 'bullies' in school? Yes.... The problem is when does just doing what normal kids do (joking, teasing) become 'bullying'? Who makes that decision, what is the criteria? I see this turning into another case of a child getting suspended for biting a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, or coming to school with a 1/2 inch plastic gun from a GI Joe action figure."

But what do you think, readers? Is the Wisconsin bully ordinance from Shawano -- and the earlier from Plover -- overreach? Are parents really responsible for their children's bullying behaviors? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Image via ShutterStock]