Parents of school bullies would face up to $750 fine, community service under Burns bill

Legislator says it’s time to hold adults accountable for their child’s bad behavior

HARRISBURG, Oct. 26 – Parents of school bullies would be on the hook for up to a $750 fine and a possible community service requirement under legislation being proposed by state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, in an attempt to curb the problem of students taunting and terrorizing their peers. 

“Bullying is underreported and often unaddressed in any meaningful way,” said Burns, who introduced similar legislation in the past. “When it’s not addressed, bullying can escalate quickly from taunts and hurtful online posts to physical assaults and -- in worst cases -- suicide. Holding students, parents and school officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge.”

Burns said H.B. 1778 is a bold parental accountability measure that would require schools to notify parents each time their child bullies another child. After the first incident, parents would be told what action the school took. After a second incident, parents would be required to take a parenting class on bullying and would be asked to attend a bullying resolution conference.

But if a student bullies a third time or more in the same school year, Burns’ bill would ensure that the bully’s parents receive a court citation and the related stiff penalty of a fine up to $750 and/or community service.

“If holding parents accountable is what it takes to reel in their kids’ bad behavior, then let’s do it,” said Burns, who is urging other lawmakers to sign onto his legislation. “With the advent of cyberbullying making this problem even more pervasive, we can’t afford to sit back and do nothing. No student should ever have to go to school in fear or shame.”

Burns said H.B. 1779, titled the Pennsylvania Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, would clearly spell out the rights of students, parents and schools as they relate to bullying and builds on the Safe2Say anonymous violence and bullying reporting program that was implemented in schools statewide a few years ago. 

The measure also would require schools to designate an anti-bullying specialist to track, investigate and follow up on reports of bullying and cyberbullying. It also would lay out the detailed information that schools must send monthly to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for each verified incident of bullying or cyberbullying.

Additionally, Burns said school administrators who fail to report or follow through on resolving bullying incidents could face punishment by the Education Department, up to and including loss of teaching or principal certifications.

“Students shouldn’t fear retaliation for reporting bullying, nor should parents feel their concerns fall on deaf ears,” Burns said. “We know that when bullying isn’t addressed, things can escalate. That’s why it’s critical that schools have the tools they need to track bullying and that state laws hold students, parents and officials accountable at all levels so students can focus on learning.”