CARSON (CBSLA.com) — Officials in the city of Carson on Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would impose criminal penalties for anyone convicted of bullying school children and young adults.
The ordinance (PDF) would make it a misdemeanor to cause any Carson residents from kindergarten through age 25 to "feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested" without necessarily requiring a threat of physical harm.
The California Penal Code only penalizes bullying "where a bully makes an actual threat to the life or safety of his or her victim."
The ordinance would also make a parent or legal guardian responsible for the bullying acts of his or her child, provided that they were made aware of any violation withing 90 days.
Under the measure - which would also cover cyber-bullying - police and other law enforcement officials would be given discretion to file lesser charges against any alleged bullies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
KNX 1070's Ron Kilgore reports Carson Mayor Jim Dear, who is also a school teacher, believes the ordinance would not only protect potential victims, but also send a message to would-be bullies.
Proposed Carson Ordinance Would Criminalize Bullying
"If you are caught a second time actually bullying someone, then there's gonna be more counseling, maybe anger management, a third time is gonna be a misdemeanor," Dear said. "And you, your parents or guardians are going to have to go to court."
While both bullying and under-bullying are often underreported, federal data indicates that some 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 are victims, according to supporters of the ordinance. The measure also cites data from "one study" showing that 60 percent of boys who bullied others in middle school were convicted of at least one crime as an adult, compared to 23 percent of boys who did not bully.
According to the proposal, various forms of cyber-bullying include "hurtful, rude and mean text messages", "spreading rumors or lies about others by email or social networks", and "creating websites, videos, or social medial (sic) profiles that embarrass, humiliate or make fun of others".
It also identifies chronically ill, disabled, gifted, overweight, and "sexual minority" children as particularly vulnerable to bullying, which can take place not only in schoolyards and locker rooms, but "on buses and on streets and sidewalks" and "in front of computers in homes and libraries."
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