- A state representative in Pennsylvania thinks parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s bullying behavior, according to The Hill.
- Rep. Frank Burns plans to introduce a bill that would require parents to take a parenting class if their child is caught bullying another student, and to be fined up to $500 or required to perform community service if the student continues to bully others.
- The lawmaker also wants a system that allows people to anonymously report bullying and for schools to report all bullying behavior.
Fines are a strategy intended to get parents’ attention, whether their child is bullying a classmate or missing school, so they will intervene and deal with the behavior. But do they work? The Guardian tried to answer that question in 2014 after a Pennsylvania mother died in jail because she couldn’t pay truancy fines for her children. In the article, Joanna Heilbrunn, director of the National Center for School Engagement, said that fines don’t address the reasons why the behavior is happening.
Fines might also create animosity between schools and parents at a time when educators and parents need to work together to address the reasons why a student might be victimizing another child. In addition, many bullies are also victims themselves, and research suggests that these students might be most at risk for “behavioral, mental health and academic problems,” according to the federal government’s anti-bullying website.
Fines — or any other punishments — for bullying are also likely to be concentrated among students and families of color or among students with disabilities, suggests Dorothy Espelage, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida and an expert on bullying. She recommends that schools focus on bullying prevention by improving overall school climate, which many schools are now trying to do with social-emotional learning programs.