N.Y. Law Makes Parents Liable for Child Bullying

Parents in North Tonawanda could face jail time and fines if their children are caught bullying.

Parents of students who bully could serve jail time in a northern New York city after an existing law was amended recently.

The North Tonawanda City Council voted unanimously Oct. 3 to allow police to arrest parents of bullies, keep them in jail for up to 15 days and fine them up to $250, reports the Associated Press.

The change also included the repeal of a provision that requires police to give parents a warning after their child’s first bullying incident.

“It’s for the parents … who don’t have the wherewithal to do what they need to do to get their kids in line,” Police Captain Thomas Krantz said. “The ones who say, ‘It’s not my problem.’”

The change came after a community coalition lobbied the city to further empower city police to respond to bullying. The coalition was started by William and Victoria Crago, whose son was the victim of a bullying incident that left him with a black eye.

“We were essentially told that, being a minor, there was nothing that could be done,” William Crago told the AP. “We actually heard that several times: ‘There’s nothing we can do.’”

City Attorney Luke Brown said the law is meant for what he called “the hard-core problem groups” of 10 or 12 students who have been involved in multiple bullying behaviors and whose parents have done little to stop it.

The City Council’s vote also added harassment and underage drinking to the list of violations that parents are liable for if their children are caught.

North Tonawanda is a city north of Buffalo with a population of 31,000.

The law is similar to one passed by multiple towns in Wisconsin in 2015. Plover, Wisconsin, Police Chief Dan Ault said the law has so far been successful in deterring bullying.

“We’ve certainly deterred the behavior,” Ault told the AP. “They’re being a little bit more aware. Why? Because, ‘Holy cow, I’d better pay attention because I don’t want to go to jail for 15 days. I don’t want to pay a $250 fine.’”

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About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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