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State’s bullying ordinances gain international attention (UPDATE)

SHAWANO, Wis. (AP) — A decision by several Wisconsin communities to fine parents whose children repeatedly bully classmates is an idea that’s generating some buzz across the globe.

Since enacting their ordinances, police chiefs in Shawano, Plover and Monona have fielded calls from news organizations from Canada to Australia, the Star Tribune reported. They’ve also received thank-you emails from victims who still struggle with the effects of bullying.

Shawano, located about 40 miles northwest of Green Bay, is the latest Wisconsin municipality to pass an ordinance that holds parents of bullies accountable.

“The threat of a fine is a necessary evil,” Shawano Police Chief Mark Kohl said Thursday, adding that it’s a consequence for parents who don’t want to help fix the problem.

But before parents in all three communities are fined, they’re given a warning that’s meant to inform them about the bullying and get them help if they have a difficult time controlling their child’s behavior, he said.

“We can’t ticket our way out of bullying,” Kohl said.

Kohl said the point of the ordinance isn’t the fine, but rather “getting people to work together” and “getting some parents to act more like parents.” Monona Chief Walter Ostrenga said it shows that not only is bullying wrong, it’s against the law.

Although some critics have complained that the ordinances create a “nanny state” and government overreach, the police chiefs argue that it’s no different than holding a parent accountable for paying for something broken by their child in a store.

“Holding parents accountable is just common sense,” said Plover Police Chief Dan Ault.

Polver enacted the fines last fall after Ault was spurred to action because of the correlation between bullying and teen suicides, truancy and school violence.

“If I can stop one school shooting from happening, that’s pretty successful,” he said. “If I can keep one kid from killing themselves, that has a profound impact.”

Ault said he would love to see other cities in the state and across the country adopt such an ordinance.

In Minnesota, Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said he’s unaware of any cities that are considering similar measures, but he can see the reasoning behind them.

“If parents aren’t coming to the table, you might have to do something like this,” he said.

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