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DIGGING DEEPER: Do anti-bullying ordinances work?

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — Sun Prairie is the latest community in south central Wisconsin considering an anti-bullying ordinance for the city.

According to Alder Maureen Crombie, she drafted the proposal after a number of parents told her schools weren’t doing enough to address bullying. She figured a city ordinance would give current anti-bullying efforts some teeth.

“I knew about Monona’s ordinance and I knew that it was very successful,” she said.

While Monona wasn’t the first community to adopt an ordinance, Sgt. Ryan Losby, the Monona officer spearheaded the effort said it was the first include parents in measure.

“We have the ability to enforce that on both bullying kids and then also parents of bullying if it’s a continued problem,” Losby said.

Monona police issue warnings to parents whose kids schools report for bullying. If it persists, the police can issue citations ranging from $500 for a first offense to $1000 for a second offense. Losby said it’s never come to that, but the department has issued six warnings. In each case, that’s been enough.

“We haven’t had an issue with those kids,” he said.

He admits persistent, serious bullying is hard to prove.

Losby said none of those cases have been recent, but he said school administrators only report cases they feel they can’t handle on their own.

“If kids know they’re doing something wrong that’s enforceable that might change their behavior,” he said.

Not all cities are sold. Janesville tried to pass a similar ordinance last year but the effort ultimately failed due to questions about how it would be enforced.

Crombie said she believes the Sun Prairie ordinance would work because it would force parents to get involved in these bullying cases.

“It’s another option for the police to reach out to parents that maybe the school district cannot reach out to,” she said.

The Sun Prairie proposal is still in its formative stages, but Crombie said parents are curious about what’s next.

One Sun Prairie father, Ryan Shipp, said he’s cautiously optimistic this ordinance could work if it raises awareness of bullying and ways to report it.

“I think it could be a good thing if handled correctly,” he said.

A subcommittee with the Youth and Family Commission is working to finalize the language. In a discussion Thursday night, they determined a Sun Prairie ordinance should work not just as a way to punish or deter bullies but also to connect families with programs and resources to help correct bullying behavior.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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