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A new way to stop bullying: Make kids pay up

By Kara Baskin

It used to be that childhood bullies were handled through playground fights. Now a California city has launched a measure making bullying illegal — and guilty kids could pay a fat fee while parents could face jail time, reports NPR.


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California's Carson City Council has initially approved a measure to make bullying a misdemeanor crime, targeting tormenters as young as Kindergarten up to age 25. First-time bullies would be fined $100, second-time offenders would be charged $200, and third-time offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor. The measure includes cyber-bullying.

Adults who bully would be charged with either an infraction or a misdemeanor, complete with jail time.

A city report states that bullying is a problem that affects 28 percent of students in grades 6 through 12. Carson City Mayor Jim Dear (who's also a teacher) hopes that the measure will turn Carson into a bully-free city — particularly if parents have to pay a hefty fee for a tot's transgressions.

A recent British study for the first time linked childhood bullying victims to a wide range of poor social, health, and economic outcomes, nearly four decades after exposure. And another new study from Boston's own Children's Hospital followed nearly 4,300 children over a five-year period from fifth grade through 10th grade. They found that 30 percent of them had been bullied, and those who experienced bullying on a weekly basis were more likely to be in poor mental health — depressed, angry, anxious, or sad — compared with those who never dealt with a bully's ire.

Clearly, childhood bullying has destructive short-term and long-term consequences that require intervention. But is fining kids (and their parents) the way to stop it? It'll be interesting to see how Carson City categorizes types of bullying: How will they differentiate harmless Kindergarten teasing from actual attacks? (The measure targets anyone who makes another person feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested” with no legitimate purpose.)

The measure is up for final approval on May 20.

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