Everyone has a story about their experiences with bullies from back when they were in school—whether they were one, dealt with one or watched one wreak havoc on the playground. Fortunately for young kids today, many schools (and parents) have become more aware of bullying and taken a much stricter stance on it. But has one town gone too far?
North Tonawanda, a town located in western New York, instated a new rule on Oct. 1 that allows parents to be fined $250 or be sentenced to 15 days in jail if their child violates city laws two or more times within a 90-day span. City laws include rules against breaking curfew and bullying, which means—you guessed it—parents in North Tonawanda can now go to jail for their kid’s cruel behavior in school.
City officials said the law was specifically designed to help lower rates of bullying in town after a bullied child’s mom started pushing for change.
“We hope to never need to use this law but it’s there in extreme cases,” Greg Woytila, superintendent of North Tonawanda’s city school district, told ABC News. “But we need to do a better job and we are continually trying to do that.”
As one might expect, the law has stirred up plenty of controversy, as seen in the tweets below. Some believe the law is a step toward a more peaceful environment for students:
Parents need to held accountable. There are some great ones and some that are just too busy to even have children. Bullying needs to stop!
— Kathy Miller (@kathymill4072) October 11, 2017
Agree with the new law. Where did kids learn behavior? Apples don't fall far from the tree. Time for parents to self-evaluate.
— Louise Kimmich (@KimmichLouise) October 11, 2017
This law should be passed in every single school in America!!! A.S.A.P.!!
— Jacqueline Lopez (@jacquelineposh) October 11, 2017
Good. Maybe this will push parents to teach their children to do the right thing.
— JoanneMaria (@JoanneMaria3) October 12, 2017
Others, however, took issue with the new law for several reasons:
I know great parents and I know their kids bully. I know horrible parents and their kids stand up to those bullies. You can’t punish parents
— Main-Vein10 (@MAIN_VEIN10) October 11, 2017
I agree. If the parents are in jail who is going to look over the kids causing the bullying?
— YaYa Casillas (@YaYaVCasillas) October 11, 2017
Black kids are inherently seen as dangerous. This is not going to go well.
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) October 10, 2017
IMO I think it is unconstitutional. Like the red light cameras. Who blame the owner and not the driver.
— Allie Alberigo (@alliekyoshi) October 9, 2017
Hopefully, the law won’t need to be used at all—but for now, at least, it’s sparking a much-needed conversation around bullying. Around a quarter to a third of American students have said they’re bullied at school, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and many parents say they don’t know how to respond to bullying incidents—regardless of whether their kids are the victims or the perpetrators of the bad behavior.
Wondering if your kid might be a bully? Perhaps don’t lead with, “Listen, your behavior could send mom to jail.” Instead, look for signs that they may be lashing out at others or seeking affirmation—then work to correct that behavior, seeking outside support if you need it. Because regardless of whether you live in North Tonawanda, bullying is something we should all be trying to stop in its tracks.