Bullying seems to be a fact of high school life – in every school, there will always be bullies and the bullied. But does it have to be that way? A town in Wisconsin has come up with a unique solution to their bullying problem.
First, some background on the town. Monona, Wisconsin is a small city of 7,533 near Madison, on the shores of Lake Monona. This town has a serious problem with bullying. In 2012, a local high school student, Holly Rose Payas, committed suicide at the age of 14 after being bullied. Her death shocked the community and galvanised her school, Monona Grove, into taking action. They issued a leaflet on suicide and depression, giving “myths and facts” on suicide and some “do’s and don’ts”. There still seems to be a bullying problem though – one petition on change.org is from a student, asking for the school to take more action on the bullies, saying “Monona Grove just needs to become more strict when it comes to bullying and harassment, because we can’t lose another student.”
So, what is the solution? Police Chief Walter Ostrenga thinks he has it – handing out fines to the bullies’ parents. Fines will start at $114 and rise to $177 for subsequent offences. It’ll be a municipal code violation, rather than a criminal offence and will only be used as a last resort after parents have been warned. Effectively, it places the onus on parents to stop bullying behaviour rather than teachers or the bullies themselves. It’s true that parenting does play a part in whether children turn out to be bullies or not, but should bullies take responsibility for their own actions rather than their parents taking the hit?
A Monona grandmother, Barbara Aguilera, thinks that the parents are ultimately responsible: “When they’re little, they have none of those prejudges or preconceived notions that someone’s weird or different than them. It’s definitely taught in the home”. Ostrenga agrees that the parents are often to blame because they think their child is perfect so they turn a blind eye to their bullying activities, often shutting the door in policemen’s faces when they try to talk to them. It’s these unco-operative parents that the fines will be targeting – if a parent is actively trying to deal with their child’s bullying, then the fine will be waived. There is also provision for the bully to be directly fined themselves.
It’s certainly innovative – no other system exists anywhere in the States, although most states have an anti-bullying policy in place. Also, it’s a timely intervention as school shootings are on the rise, which are often perpetrated by victims of bullying. Det. Sgt. Ryan Losby, who is spearheading the campaign in Monona said it was this link between violence and bullying that inspired his initiative. If the fines help stop one school shooting or one teen suicide, then they will be a success. After all, it’s obvious that something needs to be done. What do you think, should the parents of bullies’ be fined?
Until next time,
Peace, love and vitamin C!