Wisconsin City Passes Ordinance to Fine Parents of Bullies

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A new ordinance has been passed in Shawano, Wisconsin requiring that parents receive a warning if their children exhibit verbal, physical, or cyber bullying. If the negative behavior is not changed in a 90-day period after the notification, parents will be fined $366. A second offense increases the fine to $681.

The targets of the ordinance are children under the age of 18. The city’s police department, along with the Shawano School District, will determine if bullying has occurred. Police Chief Mark Kohl is a supporter of the ordinance because it also gives the department an opportunity to work with parents.

Laura Dang of NextShark writes that Kohl detailed the purpose of the policy in a television interview:

“This isn’t generated towards the kids being kids, some playground banter. This is the person that is meticulously using social media or saying things that are vulgar in an attempt to hurt, discredit, and really demean a person.”

One parent said the ordinance was a good idea, and mothers and fathers should be disciplining their children in the right way. But another parent said that she believed people should learn how to get along with one another. She did not think fines were the answer.

Several Shawano moms and dads told WLUK-TV’s Ben Krumholz that they wondered how the ordinance would be enforced, especially since deciding whether someone is bullying or not is a subjective matter.

Kohl noted that the new regulation was patterned after similar mandates passed in the cities of Plover and Monona. Those municipalities, he added, have testified that it made a positive difference in their communities. The chief continued by noting that neither city has had to issue a fine yet. He hopes Shawano will never have to issue a fine, either.

CNN Wire explains that a recent shooting at a prom in Antigo, Wisconsin was probably one reason the state is sensitive to bullying and how to control it.

Kylee Jones’ 16-year-old son is autistic and has faced bullying since he was in middle school:

“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,” said Jones.

Ms. Jones is hoping the Shawano rule will help parents be more aware of the way children interact.

Police plan to work together with the district when discussing the problem with parents. Under the new measure, parents or guardians will have 90 days after they have been informed of the behavior to intervene on their child’s behalf.

Shawano Community High School Principal Scott Zwirschitz says he will meet with the police department in the next few weeks to begin a conversation concerning how he and his faculty and staff will assist in implementing the new statute.

Tanvier Peart, writing for CafeMom, says bullying has become a grave issue because it leads to serious reactions by the kids who are bullied that include even suicide. Peart believes that fining parents could be a start.

She quoted one mom who suggested that police and administrators may want to consider that it could be the behavior of some parents that is driving the lashing out and bullying by their young ones. She adds:

“God forbid we place those kids in a more dangerous situation.”