In what's being called a breakthrough approach to bullying, a Wisconsin town will now fine the parents of children who bully others. That means if your kid harasses another kid, you could have to cough up the cash.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Monona City Council enacted the "parent-liability" ordinance last week to try to do something to put an end to bullying. A first violation will earn parents a $114 fine; those that follow carry a fine of $177. It 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."
People are thrilled with the unique approach, and it's great to see a community taking the issue so seriously. In practice, however, it's all kinds of problematic.
First of all, it seems to take the blame off of the children. They are the ones who did the bullying; they are the ones who should be punished. While it sounds like the fines would only be issued if a parent doesn't cooperate with officials when there's a problem and it will only be used as "a tool of last resort", it still sends a message that kids aren't responsible for their own actions. Pet owners are fined for the actions of their pets, but children aren't pets. Nor should they be treated as such.
Do I believe that parents contribute to and shape their children's behavior? Absolutely. But unless we're going to hold every parent liable for every crime and infraction a child commits, then this is starting down a slippery slope. For how long? What about parents who have tried their best and still have out-of-control children?
Parents should teach their children to do the right thing and attempt to raise compassionate kids who don't bully. They should work with schools when there's a problem and try to address it. But fining parents who don't isn't going to change a thing, because if a parent's only motivation to do these things is because they fear a bill, the effort isn't going to be worth much anyway. Something like mandatory counseling seems like a more effective strategy than simply handing parents a bill.
We absolutely have to do something to stop bullying. But this isn't it.
Do you think parents should be fined if their children are bullies?
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