A state lawmaker in Pennsylvania is making headlines nationwide for his plans to propose anti-bullying legislation. Rep. Frank Burns, a Democrat who represents the 72nd District, made up of parts of Cambria and Somerset counties, has a strategy that would require parents to pay up to $750 if multiple attempts to rectify a bullying issue fail.
Here's the gist: For a first offense, school officials would have to take some type of action, Burns' office explained to The Washington Post. After a second incident, parents would have to take parenting classes on bullying. After that, a judge will determine whether there’s enough evidence to fine the parents and issue a court order forcing them to pay $500. If the issue continued beyond the $500 fine, parents would be fined $750 for every offense thereafter, Burns noted.
“Parental accountability is a big factor in bullying,” the lawmaker said. “A lot of parents refuse to believe that their son or daughter is bullying people. They want to believe that their kid is great and would not do such a thing.”
Cyberbullying, which is considered a crime in Pennsylvania, is also covered by the proposal.
It's also not the only piece of legislation that Burns is planning on introducing. He has three total: one of which would have the Department of Education create a system that would allow people to report bullying anonymously. The Post reports that it would also penalize educators, either by some type of disciplinary action or suspension, if they fail to report a bullying incident. The other proposal would require schools to track and report incidents of bullying to create real-time data, according to Burns' office.
The lawmaker hasn't pointed to a particular incident or personal situation that may have inspired his push to address bullying, but his office shared that he has been to classrooms aroudn his district to talk about bullying and urge students to sign an anti-bullying pledge.
This isn't the first time that a state has attempted to crack down on bullying with legislation. Last fall, North Tonawanda, a small city north of Buffalo, New York, enacted a law that says parents can be fined $250 or be sentenced to 15 days in jail, or both, if their child violates laws on curfews and bullying, the Buffalo News reported. The controversial law reportedly stemmed from a violent incident involving a small group of male students.
And 2016, city officials in Shawano in northeastern Wisconsin passed an ordinance that gives parents 90 days after a police warning to address their child’s bullying behavior. If they fail to do so, they'll be fined $366, and a follow-up offense would cost them $681, according to WGRZ. The law was passed after a high school shooting.
Meanwhile, it looks like Burns may very well have enough support to turn his proposals into law. His office told the Post that a total of 16 Democrats and nine Republicans have signed on to be co-sponsors of his three bills. Will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out.