A Wisconsin city is considering putting into place an anti-bullying ordinance that would fine parents if their children bully others.
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Wisconsin Rapids’ Legislative Committee voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance to the Common Council. The body will consider it on June 18, the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reported.
A draft of the ordinance, which prohibits bullying, harassment and retaliation, was proposed by Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools Superintendent, Craig Broeren, after a viral social media incident showing handwritten notes a local middle school girl had received from her peers urging her to kill herself.
The measure would hold parents and guardians responsible for such behavior of children younger than 18 years old.
Penalties for a first fineable offense would be $50, with additional costs bringing the total to $313, City Attorney Susan Schill said. But parents would receive a written warning first.
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“Preventing bullying needs to be a partnership between the schools and parents and the police department,” Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief Ermin Blevins said. “If we don’t work together, we won’t be able to solve bullying.”
Broeren, who has been superintendent of the district since 2017, is hoping if the ordinance passes, it will bring together parents, the school and the police department to address and help combat bullying.
The ordinance was modeled after one implemented in by nearby Plover Police Department in 2015. The citation in Plover is $124 if a child is caught bullying another, the Rapids Tribune reported.
Plover Police Chief Dan Ault said the department hasn’t fined anyone in the four years since the ordinance was passed, and it has issued fewer than a dozen written warnings. Ault noted that educating the public was the most significant outcome.
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“It caused a shock factor,” Ault said. “Parents had to pay attention. They have to take it seriously because there’s a penalty. This isn’t government telling you how to raise your children. It’s government begging you to raise your children.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.