New law in N.Y. town says parents of bullies can face jail time

By Ray Downs  |  Oct. 12, 2017 at 12:16 AM
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Oct. 12 (UPI) -- A suburban Buffalo town passed a law last week that will put parents in jail if their child repeatedly bullies others.

The Common Council in North Tonawanda, N.Y., passed an anti-bullying ordinance that will jail parents for up to 15 days and subject them to a $250 fine if their child is believed to have bullied a another more than once.

Mother Victoria Crago, one of the law's supporters, said she saw her 8th grade son physically assaulted by another student.

"This young man just sucker-punched him right in the face and hit him as hard as he could," Crago told ABC News Tuesday. "What really alarmed me about the situation was the brazen act of violence in front of a parent."

Authorities in North Tonawanda, including the school superintendent and the mayor, are all in favor of jailing a parent is their child is a repeat bully.

"We hope to never need to use this law but it's there in extreme cases," said North Tonawanda City School District Superintendent Greg Woytila. "But we need to do a better job and we are continually trying to do that."

"The intent is to protect and prevent," said Mayor Arthur G. Pappas. "It was the result of people in the community who thought things were too loose in regard to juveniles."

Charles P. Ewing, a criminal law professor at the University at Buffalo Law School, said the law could be unconstitutional.

"I would have serious doubts about whether you could impose criminal liability on a parent for the acts of a child," Ewing said. "The idea is to sort of beat our chests and say, 'We're not going to tolerate this anymore and somebody's got to do something.' If this were perceived to be a problem that needed criminalizing, it should be up to the State Legislature to criminalize it."

North Tonawanda isn't the first town to go after the parents of bullies.

Last year, officials in Shawano, Wis., passed an ordinance that subjected parents to fines of $366 and $681 if their kids are repeat bullies.

The ordinance included online harassment in actions that were considered to be bullying.

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