Free-Range Kids

Legislator Wants to Fine Parents of Bullies $750, Make Them Take Classes

"A judge will make the determination are they guilty."

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Bullies
Igor Dutina / Dreamstime

A state representative in Pennsylvania has proposed a bill that would fine parents up to $750 and make them attend parenting classes if their kids engage in bullying.

State Rep. Frank Burns, a Democrat, spent last year extracting anti-bullying pledges from every school in his district, which is outside Johnstown. Now he wants to go further. As PennLive.com explains:

The fines wouldn't be imposed right away. Rather, they'd be the end product of a process that starts off with schools taking some sort of disciplinary action with the first instance of bullying.

After the second instance, the "parents are brought into the school for a conference. Then an action plan is set forth for school's responsibility, and what the parents responsibility is," Burns said. "Parents also required to attend parenting classes set up by the school."

And if all that doesn't work and the bullying continues, the "school can file a citation, and the parent can go to court and have their say. A judge will make the determination are they guilty," Burns said.

Parents could face initial fines of $500, going up to $750 for repeat offenses, Burns' office said.

The problems here are many, and begin with the definition of bullying. Is there really a way to distinguish "being mean" from "bullying"? If so, who gets to decide? The kid who feels hurt? The parents of the kid? The school?

According to site stopbullying.gov, the list of activities the government considers bullying includes "teasing" "taunting" and "leaving someone out on purpose." That's a wide swath of human behavior. Too wide. What if some kids want to leave someone out on purpose because that "someone" is a bully? Now he can claim to have been bullied.

"Bully" is a fluid category. Bullies don't always think they're bullies. Often, they feel aggrieved, too. Rather than turning some kid into an official pariah—and kicking his family financially (which may lead to him being kicked physically)—the school and government should not get into the habit of formally labeling people. A law like this can even make bullying worse, says Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist who has been researching and bullying for decades. "The reason is very simple," he said in an email. "What will you fight harder? A traffic ticket that serves as nothing more than a warning, or one that carries a $750 fine and gives you a permanent criminal record? Well, that's exactly what will happen when parents have to pay huge fines." The kids labeled bullies will angrily deny it. They may get their friends to turn against the alleged victims, too. Then the parents will fight the school's accusation, fueling "even more intensive feuds."

Besides, isn't a process that allows anyone to anonymously report a bully ripe for abuse? We've already seen what happens when busybodies call child protective services to complain about a neigbhor they don't like. More anonymous reporting is not what we need.

Lastly, there's also the meta problem of teaching kids to outsource their moral development to the authorities. In the New York City subway there are signs that say, "If you see a sick passenger, do not attempt to help them. Alert a police officer or a transit employee." The government is telling us not to be fully human: Do not to exercise judgment or compassion, stand back and wait for officials to handle even the everyday problems that individuals handled until now. The bullying law proposed by Rep. Burns takes an age-old issue and teaches kids not to try to solve it. Ask an adult instead.

Of course, sometimes bullying really is crazy cruel, and a higher authority should intervene. That has always been the case, and schools are already on high bully alert. This bill will not help kids. But it could hurt a lot of families.

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  1. It’s probably because of all that Hawkeye and Trapper put him through.

    1. History has proven that the best way to stop bullying is to have an authority figure step in and fight your battles for you.

      1. So-called “satirists” who subject distinguished members of the academic community to inappropriately deadpan mockery should also be fined. Surely no one here would dare to defend the “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case? See the documentation at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  2. Bullying is like porn. You know it when you see it.

    1. A bully is heavier than a duck. THAT’s how you tell!

      1. Who are you, so wise in the ways of science?

      2. That doesn’t necessarily work for porn.

        1. Sure it does. I don’t know where to draw the line, but I do know that “heavy porn” is way way past it!

  3. “State Rep. Frank Burns, a Democrat, spent last year extracting anti-bullying pledges from every school in his district, which is outside Johnstown. Now he wants to go further.”

    Let the record show that I, too, am against bullying. But I’m starting to believe that our elected officials don’t quite grasp the concept of prioritization. Is bullying the biggest problem that this politician has the power to address?

  4. Parents could face initial fines of $500, going up to $750 for repeat offenses, Burns’ office said.

    Now that’s how you bully.

    1. Time until ‘disparate impact’ gets cited making this a ‘racist and/or sexist’ program?

      Also, what happens if the kid is intractable in this problem? Can the parents elect to stop sending their snowflake to public schools on the public dime? Or is this yet another fine that only the ‘rich’ can avoid? (Since it would appear that the ‘fine’ per incident would be less than plenty of private school options that I suppose fall outside the jurisdiction.)

      Way to go, government. You force interaction and then want to fine people for that forced interaction. I can’t say ‘fuck you’ with enough emphasis on this one.

  5. What if the bully is a problem child who doesn’t heed his parents?

    I know, it’s really unlikely that a bully would fit this description. We know that bullies are always obedient to their parents.

    1. What happens if it’s the parents that are already abusing the kid that creates a ‘bully’ situation? This seems tailor made to justify the existence of CPS and to expand their already far reach, and will make bad situations worse.

  6. Remember, it is a crime to hit your kid. So we are telling parents, they can’t hit their kids or really do anything to control them other than ask them nicely, and then making the parents responsible for anything the kid does. Why people don’t want to have kids anymore, the mystery continues.

    1. “Remember, it is a crime to hit your kid.”

      No it ain’t.
      Parents can use corporal punishment to discipline their kids.

      1. Just make sure you do it where the bruises won’t show?

        /sarc ^_-

        1. Not a problem for my parents and not a problem for us.

          1. I’m not serious, it’s a joke. ^_^

            1. We are long past the era where joking is acceptable.

      2. Well, they shouldn’t.

        1. “Well, they shouldn’t.”

          And some think they should, it being a matter for parents to decide for themselves.

          1. And some think they should, it being a matter for parents to decide for themselves.

            The kids are going to have a pretty significant role in the decision as well.

            1. The kids are going to have a pretty significant role in the decision as well.

              I guess that may be the approach with some parents, but it’s sure not ours.

              1. I guess that may be the approach with some parents, but it’s sure not ours.

                I kinda meant that the kids can decide to behave and avoid any punishment. IMO, this is a bit more key than the actual form of punishment. They really fucked up Little Albert and never laid a finger on the kid.

                1. I kinda meant that the kids can decide to behave and avoid any punishment. IMO, this is a bit more key than the actual form of punishment. They really fucked up Little Albert and never laid a finger on the kid.

                  I agree, we try to be clear concerning what is unacceptable behavior and what the consequences will be for crossing that line and then try to be as consistent as possible.

                  My parents had/have pretty traditional views on parenting and their views are also ours. Kids can be very alert to what they regard as unfair punishments. One time when I was 10 I misbehaved and instead of getting the expected two or three swats with the paddle they took away a prized toy for THREE WEEKS! You know how long three weeks is to a 10-year old? Boy did I think that was cruel of them, I thought that was just so unfair, the injustice still burns bright and I’m still just biding my time to when I can exact revenge for this terrible treatment.

            2. It works out in the end. Punish fairly and the kid grows up respecting you. Punish abusively abd the kid grows up and kicks your ass.

          2. Agreed, but corporal punishment is bad parenting.

            1. Agreed, but corporal punishment is bad parenting.

              And again, some would disagree, including my parents who were great parents and are great grandparents.

              1. Tool had a song about this.

              2. In my experience, the people who synonymize corporal punishment with bad parenting have either winnowed down the definition of corporal punishment to idiotically narrow levels or have otherwise terrorized and oppressed their kids to the point where they wouldn’t physically fight for their own personal property or freedoms.

              3. What adjective describes your great grandparents?

                1. What adjective describes your great grandparents?

                  Late

            2. Fuck off, no one asked you.

              1. And Alestorm has a song for you.

                1. “I live my life by platitudes spewed out by mediocre musicians, but you should totally listen to me about parenting your child”

                  Fuck off, no one asked you.

    2. they can’t hit their kids or really do anything to control them other than ask them nicely,

      This is what you go straight towards? Not being able to hit kids is the problem? No other parenting ideas between “hit them” and “beg ineffectively”?

      1. Yes, what I go straight forward to is the hypocrisy of telling parents they can’t discipline their kids and then holding them responsible when the kids misbehave.

        1. telling parents they can’t discipline their kids

          No one says that.

        2. Only if you define “discipline” such that only hitting your kids counts.

      2. Well, taking away their computer privileges is considered abuse in most states.*

        *Source: Some guy in a bar

        1. Well, taking away their computer privileges is considered abuse in most states.*

          Believe me, It’s also parental cruelty being subjected to the level of continual unabated whining that punishment ilicits.

      3. This is what you go straight towards? Not being able to hit kids is the problem? No other parenting ideas between “hit them” and “beg ineffectively”?

        Where does chaining them to the radiator fall in the “hitting them/ineffective begging” spectrum? I need my actions and opinions validated by “A poor excuse for the view.”

  7. “Then an action plan is set forth for school’s responsibility,”

    Mind your own fucking business…

    https://www.chicksonright.com/2018/03/19/student-
    allegedly-suspended-over-personal-photo-of-him-
    and-his-family-at-a-gun-range/

  8. So “leaving someone out” is bullying? What’s it called when you’re forced to include them?

    1. They all want cake.

    2. A lost game.

    3. Being nice.

  9. “stopbullying.gov” … the irony contained within the URL alone is magnificent.

    1. I came here to say the same thing. I was worried that URL was gonna make a rip in the spacetime continuum.

      1. I can’t stop seeing the period as a comma.

        1. As all government acronyms are the opposite of what they purport, this is another perfect shit sandwich.

        2. That’s because the period is a comma in one’s sex life. Well, unless you’re into red wings or something.

          1. Sack up and put a towel down. Blood don’t hurt.

            1. In case you were wondering, Citizen X’s bedroom smells like a Coinstar repair shop.

              1. Only, like, a quarter of the time, though.

                1. But when the time comes, the mood turns on the dime.

        3. I can’t stop seeing the period as a comma.

          Bully!

  10. I’m looking forward to this particular thread getting Hihnfected once its been dead for about six or eight hours.

    1. So, Hihn is like those forensic insects that can be used to age a body?

    2. Hihnfected!

      Two points!

  11. True. A lot of bullying is actually proxy fights between parents, and so it’s way too easy to weaponize these laws against the vulnerable: just tease a kid and when they fight back, cry “Bully!” It becomes a witch hunt. Fortunately such laws can be stricken on free speech grounds.

    1. Speaking of witch hunts, the high school walkouts are actually witch hunts against autistic kids. Most kids participate enthusiastically, but some see the danger and are fighting back. For example, this girl tells us to embrace the outcast. I don’t agree with everything she says, but overall this is the right message and will win the day.

  12. Lastly, there’s also the meta problem of teaching kids to outsource their moral development to the authorities

    Thank you, Lenore, for saying that. That is, I believe, one of the most pernicious and destructive effects of government policies. For example, welfare teaches is that we should not worry about the poor, because it is the government’s job to take care of them, effectively co-opting people’s feelings of compassion for the destitute.

    1. Yeah, but pointing this out means that you are extremely selfish and probably hella white-privileged. Or so i have been told. More than once!

    2. I’d go further and suggest it’s the poor’s primary responsibility to take care of the poor. The moment we tell people they need taking care of, you’re on your way down a bad slope.

      1. Of course. But sometimes people need help. Do you not believe in any charity?

  13. The biggest bullies are teachers. Will they be fined?

    1. Not in my experience. The principal was a much worse bully. Any “anti-bullying” campaign that uses vague definitions and expects school personnel to enforce it is only going to make things worse.

  14. “”State Rep. Frank Burns, a Democrat, spent last year extracting anti-bullying pledges from every school in his district””

    How much you want to bet his nickname is Ferret Face?

  15. “You will include every little shit and pretend to like them, or else!”

    (I mean, Jesus, I was a weird loner kid – if they can’t get my sympathy here, they’re waaaaay off-base.

    And they’re, thus, waaaaay off-base.)

  16. Of course, sometimes bullying really is crazy cruel, and a higher authority should intervene.

    You know how a kid overcame bullying back in my day? With his fists.

    1. You know how a kid overcame bullying back in my day? With his fists.

      And it’s still usually the best. Unfortunately at school this approach will often get the kid defending himself in trouble as well.

      1. Teachers ALWAYS passively side with the bullies.

  17. Hihn APPROVES!!!!!!!!!!!!! this article!
    (too late?)

  18. ‘Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist who has been researching and bullying for decades’

  19. Why stop there? Burn their houses down and relocate the whole family to Alaska.

  20. The only thing the fines will teach the bullies is that they are rank AMATEURS compared to the government. I just think of the character Alex from A Clockwork Orange. He learned in the end the only acceptable way to be a bully was to be a member of the ruling party.

  21. In loco parentis or not?

  22. The real problem with all such anti-bullying efforts is that no attempt is made to determine who was right in the original underlying argument — and that always determines whether bullying is actually right or wrong. A “justice” system that isn’t just will just expose itself and its sponsors to all the more well-deserved disrespect.

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