Wisconsin Town Will Fine Parents When Children Engage in Bullying

In Monona, Wisconsin parents can now be ticketed by the police if their child is a bully. As part of an anti-bullying ordinance passed by the Monona City Council on May 20, the tactic is projected to be game-changing in the effort to reduce harassment and bullying nationwide, reports Doug Erickson from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Parents will first receive a written warning from an officer reporting their child’s behavior, and if the child bullies again with in 90 days a ticket will be written.

The ticket is not meant to punish parents who are making a genuine effort to change their child’s behavior and will only be issued to parents who aren’t putting forth an effort.

Police Chief Wally Ostrenga thinks the parent-liability clause will be used sparingly. He thinks the threat of a potential ticket will be enough to get people to do the right thing.

“Sometimes you’ll knock on someone’s door and they won’t want to talk to you — their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong,” Ostrenga said. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.”

Parents will be fined $114 for the first violation of the parent-liability clause. Any violations after that within the same year will cost them $177 each.

A large part of the broader ordinance addresses behavior that is already prohibited by the state. However, none of the other state statutes refer to the term bullying, which is what the city wants to address explicitly with this initiative.

The broader anti-bullying ordinance also states that no child over the age of 12 can engage in bullying or they will be subject to similar municipal fines.

The ordinance 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.”

The ordinance didn’t stem from any one particular incident, but from a general concern for the consequences of bullying and the growing rate of school shootings and teen suicides.

Detective Sargent Ryan Losby, who was responsible for the parent-liability clause in the ordinance, said he was motivated by the research that shows the recent school shootings were committed by students who felt they were victims of bullying.

The ordinance also addresses harassment on computerized devices. The Monona police have the ability to issue citations for cyberbullying.

In general, the ordinance is designed to give victims of bullying hope that someone will take their concerns seriously, said Monona Mayor Bob Miller.

“Ordinances reflect the values of a community,” he said. “It would be my desire that the bullying ordinance reflects the values of Monona.”