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Group looks at fines for Indiana parents of repeat bullies

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 19:23:50-04

FISHERS — Parents of repeat bullies could face up to a $500 fine in Indiana.

Punishing a bully’s parents is just one of many ideas floated by a group of parents and anti-bullying advocates who met Monday to talk about ways to improve the state’s 2013 anti-bullying law.

Angie Stagge, a Fairland mother who helped pass the 2013 law, said the proposal would fine parents between $100 to $500 after the bully’s 3rd offense — after the student had been suspended, counseled and performed community service.

Any parent that could not pay could opt to perform community service instead

“We can’t just put the bullying problem in the schools’ hands,” Stagge said. “It’s a parent problem too. We need to hold the parents accountable if they’re not doing their part at home.”

As national statistics show 1-in-3 students in the U.S. report being bullied, other cities and states including Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania are considering or have already implemented fines against the parents of bullies.

PREVIOUS | Franklin teen sues school district over bullying

Critics say laws that fine a bully’s parents are unconstitutional and do not work to prevent bullying.

However, Stagge and others say it’s unfair to expect schools to bear the sole burden of the state’s bullying problem.

Indiana parents and a former bus driver met at Passione Pizza in Fishers Monday to talk about how to better protect students from bullying and prevent it from happening in the first place.

“I have watched three families bury their children this year due to bullying,” Stagge said. “I’ve had to deal with a lot of phone calls from parents.”

RELATED | Anderson parents push for school bullying accountability after suicide

In 2017, Call 6 Investigates found schools misreporting their bullying numbers — in at least one case by more than 500 percent in a single year.

The investigation also found that nearly 60 percent of schools reported zero bullying incidents, a figure Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) officials found hard to believe.

SEE THE INVESTIGATION HERE | Despite law, schools are misreporting their bullying data

Call 6 Investigates found many schools characterize incidents as “fights” or “peer conflicts” rather than bullying.

PREVIOUS | Less than half of schools believe their bullying numbers are accurate

Stagge’s group is looking at how to change the state’s definition of bullying to better incorporate incidents currently being left out of school bullying reports to the state.

“I really want to see things change,” Melissa Hoover, a mother, said. “I don’t think the bullying law we have now is strict enough.”

Hoover said she had to pull her daughter out of public school and place her in private school due to bullying.

“My daughter reported an incident of a child bringing a weapon to school, and from that day forward she was harassed, picked on, assaulted,” Hoover said. “It went on for months. There needs to be stricter guidelines.”

Former bus driver Jennifer O’Herron said leaders at her school district told her to leave a bullied student in a dangerous situation, but she refused.

“We aren’t allowing teachers and bus drivers to freely look out for the well-being of our students, which makes it challenging,” O’Herron said.

Other ideas the group is considering include requiring classes for students on the impact of social media and suicide prevention, a new cyberbullying law that would carry time behind bars for violators, as well as requiring parents to sign their school’s anti-bullying policy when registering their child for school.

“Half of the parents I talk to don’t even know there’s an anti-bullying law, and that really saddens me,” Stagge said. “Indiana needs a stronger law.”

The group will now take their recommendations to both Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the hopes of drafting legislation for the 2020 session.