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Lawmaker Wants to Hold Parents Accountable for Their Child’s Bullying — with a $750 Fine

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Sad teen with a phone in her bedroom
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You’d have to live under a rock to ignore the impact bullying has on our country’s youth. Teen suicide rates are at an all-time high. School shootings are a part of the regular conversation. And when tragedy strikes, bullying is often part of the reason. And to twist the knife even more, today’s kids are hit from all sides — social isolation in school, outward bullying in front of peers, and cyberbullying that continues well into the night. There is no break when your classmates have chosen you as the target.

School administrators know this is an issue. Parents know this is an issue. But too often adults get caught up in the blame game, while a child, broken in spirit, barely hangs on. Well, Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Burns aims to change that. The Washington Post reports that Burns “plans to propose legislation that would require parents to pay up to $750 if their child is a habitual bully and require school officials to notify parents each time their child bullies another student.”

And as a parent and a former teacher, I say SLOW CLAP.

Too often, parents get caught up in refusing to see the truth. I’ve even done it myself upon hearing my child did something that I didn’t think he would do. Our gut reaction is to deny it, right? How could he? Not my kid! It makes us feel like we’ve failed as parents when our kids mess up. But the truth is, it’s on us to raise good humans. And if our kids are being unkind, it is OUR job to address it.

Should teachers and administrators get involved, too? Absolutely.

In her book Dear Bully, author Megan Kelley Hall wrote:

“School administrators can’t say [bullying is] up to the parents. Parents can’t say it’s up to the teachers. Teachers can’t say it’s not their job. And kids can’t say, ‘I was too afraid to tell.’ Every single one of us has to play our role if we’re serious about putting an end to the madness. We are all responsible. We must be.”

Hall is right; we each have to do our part. None of us gets a free pass on this.

Burns’s proposed bill doesn’t intend to penalize parents upon first offense. An initial infraction would likely be handled by a ramification outlined in the school handbook, such as an apology, missed recess, or detention. Only a habitual offender would cause a fine to be sent home to Mom and Dad.

And frankly, if a child is proven to be a recurring bully, the government should take action, because clearly, the parents are not.

If my kids are said to be participating in unkind behavior toward others, I will address it immediately and it will stop. If it doesn’t, that means I am not doing my job.

According to The Washington Post, Burns’s proposal suggests that after a second incident of bullying, parents would have to take parenting classes. If a child continues bullying thereafter, “a judge will determine whether there’s enough evidence to fine the parents and issue a court order forcing them to pay $500.” If the bullying behavior still continues, parents will face a $750 fine, because as Burns says, “Parental accountability is a big factor in bullying.”

The other great part of this bill is that it addresses the most common form of bullying these days— cyberbullying. Stopbullying.gov says that cyberbullying is incredibly harmful and damaging, as it is persistent, permanent, and hard to notice. Therefore, it is crucial that any legislation regarding bullying specifically include the dangers present in our 21st century online world.

As revolutionary as Burns’s proposal sounds, The Washington Post reports that the concept isn’t new. The ability to fine and/or sue parent of bullies has already been in place in parts of New York and Wisconsin. And if this bill passes, Pennsylvania will be added to the list.

We simply cannot put the onus of bullying on teacher and administrators alone. The correlation between bullying and suicide is real. We have to work together — all of us — to save our kids.

h/t: The Washington Post

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