October 30 – New legislation in Pennsylvania is looking to hold parents accountable for their child’s bullying in schools.
The Pennsylvania Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, or H.B. 1779, would tack fines onto parents if their children bully others.
According to information from the PA House, after the first incident, parents would be told what action the school took. After a second incident, parents would be required to take a parenting class on bullying and would be asked to attend a bullying resolution conference.
If the student bullies a third time or more in the same school year, the parents receive a court citation and fine up to $750 and/or community service.
The initiative was introduced by Representative Frank Burns who said, “If holding parents accountable is what it takes to reel in their kids’ bad behavior, then let’s do it. With the advent of cyberbullying making this problem even more pervasive, we can’t afford to sit back and do nothing. No student should ever have to go to school in fear or shame.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This Rep is saying the parents are getting too much of a free pass and this should be no different than truancy, or chronic absenteeism with students. There ought to be some leverage and tools that the parents can be fined if you have a habitual bullying student in your household. So I think that’ll be interesting to see. Does that get any traction in the state legislature? I think there’s merit to this. Look, I realize some parent groups are going to push back on this saying it’s beyond our control. But this state Rep I think makes a point. We already fine parents if students have chronic absenteeism. Well, could you make the same analogy or what if you have a student that’s just a chronic person engaged in bullying? I mean, at what point do you start to assign some responsibility to home? If you start to fine the parents, might that be a way that these parents get more engaged to do their own level of discipline at home to try to cut off this sort of conduct?”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “My only fear is how do you define bullying? I mean, I hope it’s nothing that like a certain word is going to be considered bullying. It has to be, I think, something more alarming and intimidating of a student than somebody else’s opinion. I’m just a little worried that this law could be abused by activists who want to create a certain atmosphere in school and they want to hire a designated anti-bullying specialist per school.”
Paul Frey, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said, “I think it is parents who raise your kids right and also, part of navigating growing up is fending for yourself. No one wants to be bullied in a mean sort of way. I mean, no one I don’t think advocates for that. I also think you can’t advocate that behavior and to fine the parents for gosh darn sake, even if they do a good job raising your son or daughter, grandson, granddaughter. I think we’re going a little bit too far here legislating behavior. I think raising good kids, raising good grandkids and it’s part I think, how do you defend yourself? How do you fight back if someone teases you, innocent teasing, I mean, versus the serious stuff. So I think it’s probably a little too far, especially if those fines are what they are. That’s pretty expensive.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “What about the repeat offenders? I mean, okay, there’s only so much good parenting and so much defense you can do before it gets a little bit out of control.”
Frey said, “Growing up when we were in elementary school and high school, we were disciplined. So if you behaved incorrectly, you were disciplined, whatever that meant. Back in our day, it was staying after school, doing extra work. It was telling your parents it would happen. So I think we need to discipline and I think that’s part of the issue. If we don’t follow those steps, then we get this extreme and so if some of these students are misbehaving, then hold them accountable.”