24 Hours Toronto - - News - BIANCA BUJAN MOMMY’S GROUNDED

Usu­ally, an af­ter-school brawl ini­ti­ated by a trou­ble­some teen who suck­er­punches an in­no­cent class­mate would re­sult in im­me­di­ate de­ten­tion — or even school sus­pen­sion.

But thanks to a new law that has come into ef­fect in a small town in New York, an act of this cal­i­bre could now put the bully’s par­ents be­hind bars.

On Oc­to­ber 1, a new an­tibul­ly­ing law was put in place in North Ton­awanda — a town lo­cated just north of Buf­falo — stat­ing that a par­ent can be fined up to $250 and sen­tenced to 15 days in jail if their child vi­o­lates cur­few or bul­lies another mi­nor in a pub­lic place. It’s a law sup­pos­edly de­signed to hold par­ents ac­count­able for their child’s un­wanted ac­tions.

But will pe­nal­iz­ing the par­ents re­ally put an end to the vi­o­lent acts?

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian In­sti­tute of Health and Re­search, at least one in three ado­les­cent stu­dents in Canada have re­ported be­ing bul­lied, and 47% of Cana­dian par­ents have re­ported hav­ing a child vic­tim of bul­ly­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Canada ranks among one of the worst coun­tries in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries for bul­ly­ing. It’s ap­par­ent that bul­ly­ing is a preva­lent and ev­er­in­creas­ing is­sue on school play­grounds across the coun­try, but putting the onus on the par­ents alone won’t change these stats in the long run.

Bul­ly­ing should not be tol­er­ated, and if the usual means of dis­ci­pline are in­ef­fec­tive, then more se­ri­ous mea­sures should def­i­nitely be taken. But pu­n­ish­ing the par­ents by slap­ping them with a hefty fine or haul­ing them off to jail is not the so­lu­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, many chil­dren who bully are do­ing so as a re­sult of some­thing go­ing on at home. If they have an un­sta­ble re­la­tion­ship with their par­ents, then threat­en­ing jail time for those care­givers could do more harm than good for all par­ties in­volved.

Other ques­tions arise sur­round­ing the en­force­ment of this parental pu­n­ish­ment as well. How is it de­ter­mined which par­ent will serve the jail time? And if the child lives with a sin­gle par­ent, then who takes over the re­spon­si­bil­ity of car­ing for the child while the par­ent is serv­ing their time?

Par­ents shouldn’t be pe­nal­ized for the ac­tions of their chil­dren by re­ceiv­ing jail time. In­stead, they should be en­gaged in the process of pre­vent­ing those events from re­oc­cur­ring. Pro­grams should be put in place to en­gage a united ef­fort be­tween the teach­ers, par­ents, and stu­dents in­volved, and when nec­es­sary, fam­ily ther­apy or other out­side sup­port should be con­sid­ered as well.

The child who is bul­ly­ing needs to learn that there are con­se­quences for their ac­tions, and the par­ents need to be present to en­sure that the right steps are be­ing taken to change those un­wanted be­hav­iours be­fore they be­come an even big­ger is­sue.

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three. Com­ments: bit­sof­bee@ya­


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