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Parents of children who bully can be cited

MONONA, Wis. (AP) – Parents of children who bully their peers may find themselves in municipal court under a new local law in the Madison area.

Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga said he expects the ordinance will be used sparingly and only in cases where parents are uncooperative.

“Sometimes you’ll knock on someone’s door and they won’t want to talk to you – their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong,” Ostrenga said. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.”

Parents who are making an effort to address their child’s behavior would not be ticketed, he said. And, before the bullying results in a ticket, a parent or guardian must be informed in writing by an officer of a previous violation by the same child within the past 90 days.

City Attorney William S. Cole called the ordinance is “a tool of last resort” and said he believes it would withstand a court challenge.

The ordinance defines bullying as “an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no legitimate purpose.”

A first violation of the municipal code “parent liability” clause carries a $114 fine. Subsequent violations within the same year carry a fine of $177.

Julie Hertzog, director of the National Bullying Prevention Center in Bloomington, Minn., tells the Wisconsin State Journal it’s the first time she’s heard of such an ordinance. And, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities said it could find no other local ordinances in Wisconsin that hold parents accountable for a child’s bullying.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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