California Law Would Make Bullying A Criminal Offense

A Carson, California, law would make bullying a criminal offense. On Tuesday, city council voted 5-0 to advance the controversial ordinance. Although the measure was approved, it is subject to a final vote, which is scheduled to take place on May 20.

Carson City Councilman Mike Gipson voted in favor of the Ordinance. Gipson said the measure was developed to prevent bullying on several levels:

"We are going to protect not only the kid that is bothered in school, but when you leave school and go home, we're going to protect you as a city."
Carson Mayor Jim Dear supports the ordinance, which protects students from physical, emotional, and cyber, harassment. He explains that the ordinance is not meant to put "a 5-year-old in jail."

If passed, the city ordinance will require offenders and their parents to appear in juvenile court. Although the crime will be a misdemeanor, Dear said the measure encourages counseling as an alternative to incarceration.

As reported by ABC News, those convicted of bullying will be required to attend counseling and pay a fine.

Although city leaders support the ordinance, others are opposed to classifying bullying as a criminal offense. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brendan Hamme said the ordinance is simply too vague. Hamme is concerned, as the measure does not specify the degrees of punishment.

As reported by Fox News, Stomp out Bullying founder Ross Ellis has similar concerns. Ellis said he does not "want someone to go to jail if they're calling someone a name."

Those who support the ordinance explain that federal and state laws do not address bullying. In most cases, bullies are punished by the individual school. Although schools have the option of suspending or expelling bullies, their reach is limited.

The ordinance was developed to "fill the gap left in the California criminal justice system." The measure protects all students between the ages of five and 26.

Bullying remains a serious concern for schools, students, and their parents. Although a majority of bullying is emotional, the scars can run deep. To deter harassment, many schools have adopted "zero tolerance policies." The policies were developed to protect children from harassment and violence. However, some have argued that the policies are unnecessarily harsh.

When children's emotional and physical health are at stake, it is difficult to develop rules that are effective and fair. The Carson city council hopes to take some of the pressure off schools by making bullying a criminal offense.

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