Law And Order
The City Council in Carson, California unanimously voted in favor of a measure making bullying a misdemeanor this week. The anti-bullying ordinance still has to pass a final vote later in May, NPR reported.
Groups are already questioning how effective the measure would be, though. The ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to cause any person between kindergarten age through 25 years old to "feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested," notes the Los Angeles Times. Meant to include cyberbullying, City Council members say the ordinance would better protect groups especially vulnerable to bullying; they say that includes gay, overweight, disabled, and gifted children.
What is not spelled out is what does and does not constitute a provocation under those terms: What if a "joking" text message is not taken as such by the recipient? What should happen to classmates of a young girl left out of a game at recess, does that warrant calling the police? And as for the age cutoff at 25, that feels entirely arbitrary.
Carson Mayor Jim Dear told Reuters he and fellow Council members are aware of the challenges, but that they support the measure: "We're not talking about putting a five-year-old in jail, we're talking about intervening in both the bully's life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim's life."
While the goal of a bully-free community is commendable, Carson's ordinance appears to have an awful lot of tweaks to iron out before it can adequately enforce such an ideal.