Kindergarteners Could Face Criminal Bullying Charges in California City

Illustration for article titled Kindergarteners Could Face Criminal Bullying Charges in California City

The city council of Carson, California has given preliminary approval to a law that would make bullying a misdemeanor...for kids as young as kindergarten. So, what they're saying is, you can get a misdemeanor for being a mister meanie!!!!

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I AM SO SORRY.

Now, I am definitely AGAINST BULLYING SO MUCH and I hate it and I think that (a lot of) the people who do it are dillweeds with a turd where their heart should be. BUT. Kindergarteners are, um, 5? Years old? They aren't young adults so much as old babies. And while I'm sure being convicted of a misdemeanor would be sufficiently traumatizing for a little tiny recently-a-baby, I'm not sure it adequately addresses the issues that lead very small children to pick on other very small children.

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Via the Houston Chronicle:

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.

I'm just throwing this out here, but maybe if you still pronounce it "misdemeanow," you aren't old enough to be charged with one?

Obviously protecting kids—not penalizing kindergarteners—is the goal of this law, and ideologically it's a good goal. But I'm not convinced that punitive measures are the best way to correct psychological problems, control issues, and/or emotional turmoil stemming from problems at home—all of which can contribute to childhood bullying.

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Also, that language is hilariously/terrifyingly vague: The law "would target anyone from kindergarten to age 25 who makes another person feel 'terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested' with no legitimate purpose"? What is a LEGITIMATE PURPOSE to terrorize someone!?!? (Leave your suggestions in the comments plz.) It seems like a dangerous catch-all that could easily be turned against victims trying to protect themselves or marginalized groups engaged in legitimate protest.

I definitely think there should be resources in place for bullying victims—and that particular attention needs to be paid to investigating/punishing cyberbullying—but this law seems more like an extravagant gesture than a constructive solution.

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The final vote will take place May 20.

Image via Gelpi JM/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

Hmm. Anecdote alert.

I was bullied aggressively starting at 8 or 9 by a girl 1 or 2 years younger than I. She used to hunt me down in the elementary school library, where I always was, and corner me there with her group of girlfriends. They'd try to knock me over, shove books out of my hands, and hassle me until I did things like tell her she was better than I and prettier than I. This antisocial behavior can start very early, and it'd be helpful to parents if they had it called to their attention by an authority above a teacher or school principal. Maybe she could have gotten into therapy and turned into a well-adjusted young woman had they pinpointed her pathology when it started, at age 6 or so. I have no problem with this ordinance whatsoever.