Local districts react to bullying ordinance

Shawano latest to implement anti-bullying ordinance

In some communities, if your child is a bully, it may cost you.

The city of Shawano passed an ordinance allowing police to fine parents if their child doesn’t stop their bullying behavior after a 90-day warning.

Shawano School District Administrator Gary Gumberland said it adds another level to punishment for bullying, and the city and police put it in place in part because of cyber-bullying and to make parents more conscious of their children’s behaviors.

Both Monona and Plover school districts have implemented similar ordinances in the past few years, and while both have issued a few warnings, neither have had to issue fines, Plover police said the ordinance was successful in starting a conversation with parents and the public about bullying.

Neither La Crosse nor Onalaska have similar ordinances, but both school districts have initiatives against bullying.

“It’s never OK to have bullying. Our school resource officers, our parents, our administrators and our staff really work hard to talk about our bullying (and) bullying prevention,” director of pupil services for La Crosse School District Regina Siegel said. “I think we do a lot for bullying, but to be honest, I think if you’re the child being bullied or the adult who has a child being bullied, you probably think it never is enough.”

Onalaska superintendent Fran Finco said anti-bullying ordinances that can punish parents for their kids’ bad behavior may make some parents more aware.

“To fine a parent to change a behavior of a student, that’s for parents not involved at all. If parents choose to not be involved, then maybe that’s a wake-up call to get parents to be involved,” he said. “But is that going to change a student’s behavior? I don’t think so.”

Finco said he prefers working directly with students and their parents and warning of potential consequences like suspension and expulsion, especially for older students who need more of a push.

Siegel can’t say for sure yet if anti-bullying ordinances would be effective in the area.

“I do know with truancy when we’re trying to get kids to school, we don’t see a lot of success with ticketing parents in order for them to get their children to school,” she said.

“So I’m not sure what an ordinance like that would bear with results. I guess we’ll be watching Shawano for that.”

Most can agree ending bullying in children starts with adults.

“It’s very important for school people to take first sign, first report seriously, because otherwise kids wills say, ‘I told an adult but they didn’t do anything about it,'” said Finco.

“The more we can focus on being kind to each other and being compassionate to each other as a whole community, that’s when we’re going to see results in schools,” said Siegel. “Because our children are always watching us.”