DEBATE THIS: SHOULD PARENTS FACE JAIL TIME IF THEIR KID IS A BULLY?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org