Parents of bullies could be sent to jail

Parents of bullies could face jail time, thanks to a new law in a New York town.
Parents of bullies could face jail time, thanks to a new law in a New York town. Photo: Shutterstock

Parents of bullies in a New York town could face jail time thanks to a new law passed unanimously last week.

It's the no tolerance crackdown a group of North Tonawanda parents, lead by Victoria Crago, had been pushing for after Ms Crago's 13-year-old son was assaulted in front of her earlier this year.

"This young man just sucker-punched him right in the face and hit him as hard as he could," the mum told ABC News of the attack. "What really alarmed me about the situation was the brazen act of violence in front of a parent.

"It was really traumatic for both of us."

The teen responsible was subsequently charged with third-degree assault.

The incident prompted Ms Crago and her husband Will Crago, to create a Facebook page "North Tonawanda Coalition for Safe Schools and Streets" for concerned local parents, who were increasingly alarmed at what they called the "culture of violence" around North Tonawanda Middle School. 

Their efforts lead to a new anti-bullying law being passed by the North Tonawanda Common Council on 1 October. Under its terms, parents can be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail if their child violates the city's curfew (unaccompanied children under 16 years aren't allowed on the streets after 11 pm on weeknights or midnight on weekends), or any of the city's laws - including bullying.

"We hope to never need to use this law but it's there in extreme cases," North Tonawanda City School District Superintendent Greg Woytila told ABC News. "But we need to do a better job and we are continually trying to do that."

Tonawanda City Attorney, Luke Brown, says the law is more about getting parents to engage "in the process" and to find solutions.

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It's a sentiment echoed by North Tonawanda Mayor Art Pappas, who told WIVB News that the focus is on prevention, rather than punishment.

"We want the message out there that we're serious about this. We don't want anyone to be afraid to be in our city, or walk the streets or go to school," Mr Pappas said. "I think it's going to get a message out there. That certain parents who haven't now have to take some responsibility for their children."

School superintendent Greg Woytila told The Buffalo News, that he's "all for it". 

"When you've got 3,000-plus students and two or three are out of control, that's too many," he said. "One's too many. Sometimes the police officers are the only ones trying. The families have given up."