A new law in North Tonawanda, New York will make it so parents of kids caught bullying other kids could face jail time for their child’s actions.
The law in question went into effect on October 1 with the intent of reducing bullying by holding the bullies’ parents accountable. Under it, if a kid violates the city’s curfew or any other city law, including bullying, twice in a 90-day period, their parents could be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail. North Tonawanda officials say the law was put into place after four students were kicked out of North Tonawanda Middle School for bullying.
Is putting parents in jail is the right way to make kids more accountable for their actions? The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) raised several concerns about the effectiveness of the law in practice, noting that “many argue such a legal intervention as this new law oversteps and extends the nanny state.”
The ACSH also expressed concern about “the undue burden it might pose on working or single parents.” The law will be especially difficult for single parents, who could end up losing a job or not being able to provide for their family due to the actions of their kids.
Some locals parents were on board with the new legislation. “I’m all for it,” said Greg Woytila, the school superintendent where the bullying has allegedly grown rampant. “When you’ve got 3,000-plus students and two or three are out of control, that’s too many. One’s too many. Sometimes the police officers are the only ones trying. The families have given up.”
Bullying is, of course, something that should never be tolerated. But pinning down what exactly counts as it can be tough. And with the stakes raised in North Tonawanda, it will get even more difficult. Will the new law prove to be an effective way to reduce bullying or a failed experiment that will make parents unnecessary scapegoats for their kids? Only time will tell.