City leaders in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, are poised to
become among the first municipalities in the nation to make bullying
a crime by treating it as an infraction or a misdemeanor, which are
offenses less serious than a felony.
Carson Mayor Jim Dear said he expects the measure could be
challenged in court but said he supports it.
"We're not talking about putting a 5-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," Dear said.
The Carson city council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to move forward with
the anti-bullying ordinance, which needs to come back for a final
vote on May 20. The text of the measure says it is modeled on a
similar ordinance in Monona, Wisconsin.
Carson, a city of about 93,000 residents, contracts with the Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Department for policing, and the measure
would call on sheriff's deputies to enforce the ordinance. The
measure defines bullying as "a willful course of conduct which
involves harassment of a person(s) from kindergarten through age
The measure covers physical and verbal actions, as well as so-called
It would require the parent of a suspected bully to attend a
juvenile court hearing and hold parents partly responsible for
actions of their children, Dear said.
Time in custody would not always be administered to children and
young adults found to have committed bullying, and counseling and
therapy would be part of the solution, he said.
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But Brendan Hamme, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties
Union of Southern California, said the measure is too vague and does
not even spell out how much jail time an offender could potentially
face, although in California a misdemeanor crime can carry a maximum
sentence of a year in jail.
Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of New York-based Stomp Out Bullying,
said the measure appears to go too far.
"Do you want someone to go to jail if they're calling someone a
name?" Ellis said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Ken Wills)
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