Parents in Pennsylvania could soon pay steep fines for their children’s bullying. Representative Frank Burns, D-Cambria, drafted a bill that would fine parents $500 when their child is caught bullying multiple times in one year.
“Bullying is underreported and often unaddressed in any meaningful way,” Burns said in a statement. “When it’s not addressed, bullying can escalate quickly from taunts and hurtful online posts to physical assaults and—in worst cases—suicide.” In 2015, the suicide rate among teen girls reached a 40-year high, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But rates soared for teen boys as well. Suicide rates doubled among teen girls and went up by more than 30 percent among teen boys from 2007 and 2015. Burns felt compelled to address bullying after visiting schools in his district of Cambria County, PA.
“If holding parents accountable is what it takes to reel in their kids’ bad behavior, then let’s do it,” explained Burns. “With the advent of cyberbullying making this problem even more pervasive, we can’t afford to sit back and do nothing. No student should ever have to go to school in fear or shame.”
The bill would give bullies and their parents the opportunity to change before fines were issued. The proposed law would require schools to tell parents when their child is caught bullying each and every time. After the first transgression, school officials will tell parents how they handled it. After the second case of bullying, moms and dads would have to take a bullying class specially designed for parents. They’d also be asked to go to a bullying resolution conference. If a student is caught bullying for the third time (or more) in the same school year, then they’d receive a court citation for a fine up to $500 and/or community service.
As school districts across the country struggle to deal with the issue, politicians have become more open to the idea of fines. The Plover Village Board in Wisconsin recently approved an anti-bullying ordinance that fines parents of repeat bullies $124. Similar to Pennsylvania, parents aren’t slapped with a bill immediately. Instead, they receive a written notice and face a fine if their kid is caught bullying again in 90 days. “It’s not the school’s responsibility to raise the kids. It’s the school’s job to teach the kids. It’s not the police’s job to raise your kids. It’s the parents’ job to raise the kids,” shared Plover Police Chief Dan Ault who wrote the ordinance.
Burns doesn’t want Pennsylvania to just slap parents with a bunch of fines, which is why his bill includes two other programs to tackle the issue. The proposed law would set up a system run by the Department of Education that allowed for anonymous reporting of bullying and provide real-time data on bullying in schools.
“Holding students, parents, and officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge,” Burns added.