Town Threatens Parents With Jail Time If Their Kid Is a Bully at School

kid walking with backpack by lockers in school hallway

Bullying in school is a serious problem with no easy solution. But if detention and school suspensions don't work to curb bullying, should parents be held accountable for their kids' bad behavior? Having tried and failed countess initiatives, one western New York town is trying a new and highly controversial way of dealing with bullies -- by sending the parents of the bully to jail.


As of October 1, parents in North Tonawanda, New York, can be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail if their child violates the city's curfew or any other city law, including bullying, two times or more within a 90 day period.

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Officials say the law is geared toward children who target other kids for bullying in public places, such as school. Four students were recently expelled from North Tonawanda Middle School for alleged bullying.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess? It seems the logic behind the law is that threatening the parents of a bully with jail will force parents to talk to their children and get them to understand that bullying is wrong. But we all know that things aren't always so simple. Having a child that bullies others isn't always the result of a parent who's tuned out or not trying hard enough.

Facebook is filled with people who aren't sure how throwing the parents of a bullying child in a cell is going to solve the problem. There are those who think if anyone should go to jail, it should be the child who bullied.

Some pointed out that if teens have a particularly rocky relationship with their parents, they now have a way to make their parents disappear for a couple weeks.

Others noted how a system of jailing parents when a child acts like a bully could have devastating consequences for parents' careers. And what happens to the child when you're a single parent?

Speaking of who stays behind to watch the kids -- how exactly are the courts going to decide which parent goes to jail if a child is deemed a bully? Do both parents go? Only one? Do they hold a hearing to decide if Mom or Dad failed more on the anti-bullying front or do they draw a name Hunger Games–style?

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Kudos to North Tonawanda for trying to think outside the box in coming up with a new solution to combat the plague of bullying that impacts so many teens and tweens. But while action is a good thing, perhaps community service or even family therapy to help parents work with their kids to change their ways would be more effective than taking their role models away entirely. 

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