Proposed anti-bullying ordinance carries strict punishments

Benton Harbor, Mich. A proposed Benton Harbor ordinance would mean strict penalties for bullies.

The city’s legislative committee discussed the idea during a meeting Wednesday night.

Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Henderson says bullying is a growing problem for the city’s youth, so the commission needs to take a stand on the issue.

She’s proposing an anti-bullying ordinance, which would make the harmful behavior illegal.

“Children who have been a part of that, some have gone unpunished or nothing has occurred because there were no laws enacted to do anything about it,” Henderson said. “Prevention is the main reason for doing this, to prevent this kind of thing from happening to our kids.”

The ordinance would also hold parents accountable. If their child is the one behind the bullying, parents will have to perform community service with their kids upon the first offense.

After that, parents could face fines ranging from $75 to $500, depending on the number of violations.

“I would like to see it higher than that just to let people know we mean business and this will not be tolerated,” said Commissioner Trenton Bowens.

But, some argue the proposed punishments go too far because parents can’t always control their kids.

“I don't appreciate anything that would tax any of the parents in Benton Harbor for their kid's behavior,” said one resident during Wednesday’s meeting.

Henderson will come before the legislative committee again in February with more information about the proposal. She says they’ll hold town hall meetings to get public input before the commission votes on the ordinance.

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