The chief of police in Edgerton wants parents to be more involved in bullying prevention, and he said a proposed city bullying ordinance could help.
“Too many times we cite a child and the parents don’t take an active role in it. At least now if we do see it, parents now have to become responsible,” Chief Robert Kowalski said.
“A lot of this ordinance actually entails a parent responsibility.”
The ordinance defines bullying as “an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander or threaten another person and which serves no legitimate purpose.”
The ordinance outlaws bullying, allowing children to bully others and retaliation to bullying. Officers would give citations on a “case-by-case” basis, Kowalski said.
A first bullying violation would result in a letter to parents to serve as a warning. Kowalski said the department would work with parents and the school district within 90 days of the warning. If parents fail to address the issue or work with police, they may be cited for enabling bullying behavior.
Students who continue to bully within the 90-day period would receive a citation for bullying, and parents would be required to take action if their children are issued a citation. The sort of action parents would have to take is still being determined, Kowalski said.
Before it is finalized, the school district will have a chance to review the ordinance. Edgerton School District Superintendent Dennis Pauli is on board with the policy.
“I fully endorse the chief’s ordinance,” he said. “The safety of our students is our top priority.”
The ordinance originally carried fines ranging between $100 to $250 for each violation after a warning, but the forfeiture could not exceed more than $100 per day, meaning the maximum fine would need to be paid over three days.
At Monday’s city council meeting, the council voted to amend the forfeitures to range from $10 to $500. Fines would depend on the number of prior violations and the severity of incidents, Kowalski said. The city council will hold a public hearing before taking a final vote on the ordinance. Dates for those actions are not yet scheduled.
Council member Anne Radtke said the ordinance sounded “excellent” and added education should be part of the punishment. Kowalski said the district has that as part of its plan.
“We have a great relationship with the school and the community and we want to maintain that, so if there is something out of line, this provides us another chance to work with the schools, to work with the families to alleviate the issue,” he said.
Pauli said preventing bullying is a top focus for the district, and the proposed ordinance will help keep students safe.
“We should never take bullying-type behavior lightly and must remain vigilant in our quest to ensure students a safe learning environment,” Pauli said.
And while he hopes he won’t have to cite anyone for bullying, Kowalski said the new policy serves as a guide and can help students see how serious bullying is.
“I hope to never have to give a parent a ticket for this ordinance,” Kowalski said.
“I hope it sits there and never gets used. From what I see, I don’t think I’ll ever have to use it, but at least we will have this available to us (if needed).”