Bullying Battle: Holding parents responsible for their child's behavior

Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 3:59 PM CDT
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One Wisconsin city is considering an ordinance imposing fines on the parents of young bullies. This comes after a viral social media post showed handwritten notes Wisconsin Rapids students sent to a middle school girl urging her to harm herself.

1 in 3 U.S. students say they've been bullied at school. Even more are cyberbullied, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. School officials and law enforcement in Eau Claire share their response to the idea of holding parents accountable. "We in the district have a formal complaint process in which the child that’s being bullied or his or her parents or a bystander can come forward,” said Kaying Xiong, Director of Student Services at the Eau Claire Area School District.

Federal data shows bullying is impacting kids of all ages. In 2018 Wisconsin ranked seventh on a list of states with the biggest bullying problems.

Next week, a council in Wisconsin Rapids will vote on an anti-bullying ordinance, which would hold parents responsible for the behavior of kids younger than 18. Parents would first receive warnings then offenses could hold fines of more than $300. Xiong says the issue of bullying has grown in recent years with the rise of social media. "There's the cyberbullying that’s happening, there’s the social media bullying and a lot of times schools don’t even know that this is going on so we rely on the peers of the students, we rely on parents, we rely on community members," she says.

Many experts agree that bullying isn't just a parental or school issue but a community one. "I do think that it’s important that parents hold an accountability piece to some of this but it’s a community effort,” Xiong says.

Xiong suggests keeping an open dialogue with your child about the dangers of bullying and making sure they know to speak up if they are being bullied or know someone who is. "It takes a village to raise a child and this is one of those topics where if we don't all rally around what is going on and how to support students, sometimes they go undetected," said Xiong.

The Eau Claire Police Department also weighed in on the idea of an anti-bullying ordinance Officials didn't want to comment on the Wisconsin Rapids proposal because it's pending legislation but say in general it's important for parents to keep open communication with their kids about the dangers of bullying.

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