The town of Monona, Wisconsin, is cracking down on bullying. The city council passed an ordinance which could ticket parents and fine them more than $100 if their children are repeatedly bullying others.
While some may call the new law extreme and a clear overreach of government intervention into the rights of private citizens, critical thinking says it's needed and that other city governments around the country should follow suit. According to dosomething.org, 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and 160,000 kids skip school every day because they are afraid of being bullied. Make no mistake about it: Bullying today is not a game, not a rite of passage and not the same kind of bullying that many of us knew from our childhood years ago.
Children are bullied for numerous reasons. Does it really matter why? This is a critical issue that requires serious people to solve it. If parents and leaders aren't part of the solution, they are part of the problem. By taking little to no action is simply giving bullies an excuse to hurt innocent children. Critical thinking says it's time to pressure educators, parents and politicians to work together to end bullying in American schools.
Parents need to wake up, too. Of course most parents want to believe that their child is an angel, never capable of inflicting such an evil act on another child. It's time parents start looking at the issue through the lens of objective reality and realize that unfortunately, any kid could be a bully. It's important that parents discuss openly and honestly with their children the dangers and severity of bullying, and let them know that bullying on any level will never be tolerated. On the flipside, parents must also convey to their children that they confide in them or another adult if they are the victim of bullying.
Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga said, "Sometimes you'll knock on someone's door and they won't want to talk to you -- their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong. This fine is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces."
The only downside to the new city ordinance is that it's not strict enough. City officials say that a parent or guardian must be informed by an officer of a separate bullying violation by the same individual within the past 90 day before they would face a fine. There are times in life when letting people off with a warning is acceptable, but when 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school, and children are committing suicide because of bullying, this isn't a time to start issuing warnings. These $100 fines need to be assessed from the very first incident.
Bullying has been a problem since the beginning of time, and probably pre-dates humans beginning in the animal kingdom. Anytime there's a perceived imbalance of power viewed through the eyes of a creature who derives pleasure from others misery, you will have bullying. It's a nice thought to say we have the power to banish all bullying, but whether or not we can actually accomplish that goal one thing is for certain: Bullying is a problem that must be dealt with in the family, in the community, in schools, in afterschool settings and in the religious community.
There's no excuse for 160,000 kids a day cowering in terror. Anti-bullying laws need to carry severe punishment and be enforced. More cities need to follow the example set by Monona. Bullies should be banished from schools and sent back to their parents. We owe it to our children to protect them and provide an environment where they can successfully and fearlessly learn and grow.