Parents in one New York town could soon end up behind bars or paying a $250 fine if their kids bully peers.
A new law unanimously passed by city council members in North Tonawanda, New York, holds moms and dads accountable for their children’s behavior. Politicians voted unanimously to potentially fine parents $250 or throw them in jail for up to 15 days.
And that’s not all. According to USA Today, the law also holds parents accountable if they host parties with illegal activities or if their kids break curfew. At its core, it’s a law that creates a complicated debate.
On one hand, many people have lamented the lack of respect seen among some kids today and the widespread bullying problem. On the other, there’s a viable debate to be had about just how far the government should take its powers.
North Tonawanda officials say that the law is aimed at prevention and at repeat offenders.
“We want the message out there that we’re serious about this,” Mayor Art Pappas told WIVB-TV. “We don’t want anyone to be afraid to be in our city, or walk the streets or go to school.”
The law was passed after intense frustration from parents, police and locals due to youth violence — particularly perpetuated by middle school kids — earlier this year.
“I can tell you that, back as the juvenile officer, this last spring and summer was the worst I had seen in the 19 years I’ve been there,” North Tonawanda Police Capt. Karen Smith told the Buffalo News. “With this core group of about five juvenile males who were getting in trouble on a real regular basis.”
And it seems a lot of key stakeholders are on board with the measure. Assistant city attorney Nicholas B. Robinson said that the goal is to “have parents have more control of their children.” School Superintendent Greg Woytila agreed.
“I’m all for it,” Woytila said. “When you’ve got 3,000-plus students and two or three are out of control, that’s too many. One’s too many. Sometimes the police officers are the only ones trying. The families have given up.”
You can read about the entire debate here, but it appears the effort was based on similar laws that were passed in four Wisconsin towns. While no parents have been detained or held there, the effort is more aimed at scaring parents into fulfilling their responsibility.
“If you explain it, there’s very little controversy over it. If you just roll it out, you get, ‘It’s government regulation, government telling you how to raise your children,'” Police Chief Daniel Ault of Plover, Wisconsin, told The Buffalo News. “It’s not us telling you how to raise your children. It’s us telling you, ‘Please raise your children.'”