Wisconsin Attempts to Stop Bullies in New Legislation
One Wisconsin city is saying “no” to bullying through a new proposal that would hold parents responsible. The proposed law is one of many across America which attempts to reduce incidents of bullying through legal means.
The proposed law in Sun Prarie, Wisconsin would include verbal, physical, and even electronic/cyber-bullying. Under it, parents could be fined anywhere from $50 to $1,000 if their child is a bully (repeated offender). This is not the first time the state of Wisconsin has considered such legislation. Both Monona and Plover Village have developed ordinances to address bullying, in previous years. Their efforts aimed at giving police the ability to notify parents in writing if their child is caught bullying and to ticket the parents if the child bullies again within 90 days.
Proposed Anti-Bullying Laws in America
The efforts in Wisconsin are similar to those in other states. In Tonawanda, New York, they’ve sought to punish a bullies’ parents with fines and jail time. In Pennsylvania, State Rep. Frank Burns proposed a similar bill, fining parents up to $750 and mandating parenting classes. For more on anti-bullying legislation in specific states, visit www.stopbullying.gov.
What Is Bullying?
The real question is: what constitutes bullying?
In 2019, “bullying” is defined differently in each state but is now illegal nationwide. The word bullying can include overt criminal behavior such as assault and battery as well as rude gestures such as eye-rolling. It’s hard to believe but even repeated eye-rolling can now be considered a crime under anti-bullying legislation and could lead to criminal prosecution.
Does Fining Parents Stop Bullying?
So far there’s no evidence the Monona ordinance has worked in reducing bullying. Detective Sgt. Ryan Losby says no tickets have been issued in the two years since it took effect, but the department did issue three warnings. He worries that it’s being perceived as an empty threat and not making a real difference. Still he wishes that the city would have surveyed students about bullying before and after the ordinance took place, adding “I have no doubt it would have showed a drastic reduction in bullying”.
Tough Questions about Anti-Bully Laws
I have my own questions regarding these proposals…
1. Has this been proven to be effective elsewhere?
2. Were any psychologists or sociologists consulted in the development of the proposed laws?
3. In the case of foster parents, will the state pay the fine to the city or township, while the child is considered a ward of the state?
4. Will the targets of bullying be empowered with skills to defend themselves?
Assuming that the answer to each question is “no”, let me suggest a psychological approach to the bullying problem.