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Laws don't hold the answer to bullying

by Greg Belfrage

Do you remember those times as a kid when you were harassed by a bully?

I bet you do. If you're like me, those memories are still vivid and evoke some strong emotions.

I'll never shake the memory of the Kirsch brothers threatening me for days on end on the middle school bus. Or the looks on the faces of my friends as they sat there motionless and unwilling to help me for fear they would be targeted next. Those were miserable, horrible experiences.

As bad it was to be bullied back on the bus in 1977...bullying today is even worse. At least I could retreat into the safety of my bedroom.Today, there's no escape from the schoolyard bully.

Cyber-bullying has become pervasive thanks to the internet, access to mobile phones and a drastic decline in civility. I'm not criticizing technology, just the way some people use it.

A growing number of communities are responding by criminalizing bullying.

The latest community to make bullying illegal is Carson, California. Their city council passed an ordinance this week that says anyone caught harassing someone, from kindergarten up to the age of 25, could be charged with a misdemeanor. Parents of repeat bullies will face fines.

The question isn't whether bullying is acceptable. Clearly, it isn't. We all agreed on that.

I've said many times on the air that America does one thing better than any other country in the world... over-react. Americans are the uncontested champs when it comes to over-reaction.

Are we seriously going to haul 5 and 6 year old kids in front of a juvenile judge on a misdemeanor charge of bullying? That's ridiculous.

We are all outraged when a young person is driven to suicide by bullies. I am especially sympathetic to the problem. Bullying at school and online has led to depression and behavior problems for one of my daughters.

However, the answer does not lie in laws aimed at children.

Schools are the key, since that's where most bullying originates.

School administrators, teachers and parents must work together to teach children mutual respect and responsible behavior. Parents, especially, need to be proactive in monitoring the online activities of their children. Repeat bullies should be disciplined in school, not by judges.

And children must be taught to tell parents and teachers when another child is being bullied. In my case, it would have made all the difference.

Greg Belfrage @belfrageshow is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.

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Read more:
California city aims to fight bullying by criminalizing it