School bullies are just as prevalent today as they were a generation ago. The difference now, though, is they're often more visible thanks to platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and texting. Kids being picked on in the cafeteria, hallways or playground can be taunted later on, too, even from the safety of their homes and families.
While parents can try to monitor their kids' social media habits and talk to them about being kind, officials in Shawano, Wisconsin don't want to take too many chances. A new ordinance was passed there in late April that could force parents to fork over $366 the first time their child is determined to have bullied another child. If it happens again within a year, the fine increases to $681.
According to Fox 11 News, the police chief in Sawano will work with the local school district to determine who's doing the bullying, at which time parents will be notified and given three months to try and resolve the situation before being slapped with a bill.
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Chief Mark Kohl tells Fox 11, "We feel without getting the parent involved, just giving a ticket or fining someone out of this isn't the answer,"
The ordinance also stipulates that parents are responsible for preventing their kids from cyberbullying. While the police department isn't looking to helicopter their way into every potentially ugly situation, some parents in Sawano have expressed concern at what could be considered subjective behavior.
Parents can—and should—know what their kids do each day, virtually and in real life.
“This isn’t generated towards the kids being kids, some playground banter,” Kohl says. “This is the person that is meticulously using social media or saying things that are vulgar in an attempt to hurt, discredit and really demean a person.”
While many parents like to think they're in the know when it comes to their kids' lives, the reality is that when kids —especially older ones—leave home for school each day, there are plenty of moments not being monitored by bus drivers, school administrators and teachers, which means there's ample opportunity for conflict.
Parents can—and should—know what their kids do each day, virtually and in real life. To really know what your child is doing, though, can take a lot of time and work. It's not just asking questions and reading texts. It's spending time with kids beyond the breakfast and dinner table, engaging in activities with them, meeting and getting to know their friends and even their friends' parents.
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It's volunteering, if possible, at school and getting a sense of how their kids interact with others. It's having repeated conversations about being respectful, even of kids they dislike. It's letting them know about the very real-life consequences of their behavior should they chose to take on the role of a bully.
To be sure, "bullying" is a buzzword that has been used and abused in recent times, although bullying is also an age-old epidemic that has a history of affecting lives for the worse. While no parent wants to get hit with a fine for their kid's behavior, there are other parents who are even more devastated to know their kids are targeted for tormenting. By making it a community problem instead of just a school one, Shawano should be looked at as a model of what other municipalities can do to take a proactive measures that keep all kids safe.