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:
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.
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.