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KATE: The $100 solution to stopping bullying.

Police in the US are reportedly giving five and six-year-old kids fines for bullying.

This is happening in the City of Carson, in California, and the fines are for up to $200.

The Houston Chronicle recently reported:

Bullying. Of course there should be a punishment. But should it really involve the cops?

The Carson City Council gave preliminary approval this week to an ordinance that would target anyone from kindergarten to age 25 who makes another person feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested” with no legitimate purpose.

…First-time offenders could be ticketed for an infraction and fined $100. A second infraction would cost $200, and a third-time offense could bring a criminal misdemeanor charge.

“If a child is bullying someone, and a parent has to pay a $100 fine as a result of that, a responsible parent will realize their child needs some help,” said Councilman Mike Gipson, who introduced the ordinance and is spearheading a campaign to make Carson bully-free.

Putting aside for a moment the amount of pocket money Carson’s five year olds must be getting to cover that kind of fine, the idea that preschool issues should be dealt with by the police and not teachers and parents is, to me, wrong on so many levels.

Let’s start with the question of ‘bullying’. I absolutely agree with the definition given. No child – or person, of any age should be terrorised, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested.’

We’re all clear on that. Bullying isn’t acceptable, ever.

Kate Hunter.

But – and I realise I’m on shaky ground here, I do believe the word is overused. It’s become shorthand for, ‘being mean.’ And ‘being mean,’ although not nice, is hardly criminal behaviour. Kids are canny – they know the phrase, ‘I’m being bullied’ is a siren, guaranteed to get attention, sympathy and action.

When my daughter was in her first year of school, she came home and told me, tearfully, that she was being bullied. Naturally, I made her a milkshake and bought her a pony before wrapping her in my loving arms and asking what, exactly, was happening.

‘Well, Ingrid always wants to play unicorns and I’m tired of that and want to play something different so Sigrid just went and played unicorns with Olivia and Lulu and now they do it every day.’

Now you see, that’s not bullying in my book. Lucky for Ingrid she doesn’t live in Carson City or she’d be slapped with a misdemeanour. And I know her disposable income isn’t nearly enough to cover the fines, so she might well have ended up in the big house.

The pony was returned and I had a talk with my girl about bullying.

‘Are you scared to go to school?’ No.

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‘Do Ingrid and the other unicorns say you can’t play with them?’  No.

‘Do they hurt you or scare you?’ No.

‘So they’re not bullying. They’re not even being mean. They just what to play something you don’t want to play. They’re allowed to do that. So are you. So don’t worry about it and play with somebody else. Next week they’ll probably play your game.’

So that’s unicorn-exclusion sorted.

But what about kids who whack with sandpit shovels, squirt paint into lunch boxes, pull hair, pinch, kick, mock and tease and worse? Those things happen in kindy, preschool, prep … whatever you call it in your state and they’re horrible. Is it a matter for the police, though?

“Bullying isn’t acceptable, ever.”

Maybe it is.

Talk to enough teachers and you’ll hear of parents who just don’t care. Parents who’ve  outsourced child-rearing to the point they want things like manners, respect and kindness taught along with reading, writing and craft. These parents ignore requests for meetings with teachers and will side with their kids no matter what. Nothing is ever their child’s fault and everyone should take a spoonful of cement and harden up.

Perhaps nothing will talk to these folk like a $100 fine and a criminal record.

Has it really come to that? Have teachers, police and courts not got better things to do than sort out playground barneys?

Because in the end – you can see it, can’t you? It’ll be about the parents, not the kids. The kids will go right on chucking Lego and being selective about their unicorn fights while the adults around them point fingers, file complaints and wait for someone else to clean up the mess they themselves created.

What do you think about the idea of addressing bullying in schools, through the police? Should there be laws against bullying

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