“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never harm me….”

That ditty bolstered a whole of us back when, but nowadays nasty words find their way online, too, potentially causing cause great and endless hurt. Question is, while schools are out there on the front lines trying to stem cruel behaviors and postings, what about the parents of bullies?

Some say, fining those parents is the way to go, and that’s the very path followed recently by the Wisconsin Rapids School District. A new ordinance proposed by its Superintendent Craig Broeren and approved by the city council “aims to hold parents legally responsible for their child’s repeated bullying behaviors and issued up to $250 in fines if they don’t stop.” It also prohibits any sorts of retaliation against kids who report bullying incidents.

Not surprisingly, other states are considering following suit.

New Jersey, for instance, has proposed “Mallory’s Law,” named after 12-year-old Mallory Grossman who committed suicide after being bullied both in school and online. If passed, the parents of bullies would have to take a training class and also pay a fine of $100 initially and up to $500 for multiple incidences.

As regrettable as such moves are, there’s good reason for them in these troubling days. Take, for example, these findings from the 2018 U.S. Department of Education’s Indicators of School Crime and Safety report:

  • 20% of 12- to 18-year-old students nationwide reported being bullied in school in 2017.
  • 41% reported believing that it would happen again.
  • 6% purposely avoided school activities, classes, or one or more school locations thinking someone might physically attack or harm them.

So, is fining parents an effective solution?

When I posed that question to several local moms, they responded with a resounding, “No,” saying it would have little impact on the problem. Plus, a few added that it would unduly punish those with low incomes. One mom, whose son was bullied mercilessly bullied, tried for almost a whole year to get the school to help but to no avail.

Ultimately, her son, L., came up with his own solution: He enlisted several of his closest friends to serve as his bodyguards, writing up a contract which they all signed. Among the promises made:

  • They would serve unless signing on to serve as a body guard for someone else; in that case, they were “fired,” but could return if they changed their mind.
  • They could “attack” only if L. or one of the guards were being harmed.
  • If L. were ever absent from school, the body guards were “off duty.”

Their reward for service: chocolate chips or some other sweet snack during lunch. However, explained his mom, “After the first week, they all agreed that no ‘payment’ was necessary because everyone was enjoying the deal so much.”

And it worked; the bullying subsided…

Many thanks, Carol