Parents of school bullies would face up to $500 fine, community service under Burns bill

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

HARRISBURG, March 12 – Parents of school bullies would be on the hook for up to a $500 fine and 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 made it his mission to visit classrooms throughout his district last year to talk about bullying and have students sign an anti-bullying pledge. “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 officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge.”

Burns’ bold parental accountability measure—one of a package of three bills Burns plans to introduce shortly—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 $500 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.”

The other two bills in Burns’ comprehensive approach would require the Department of Education to establish an anonymous reporting system for bullying, and would provide for accurate, real-time data on bullying by requiring schools to track and report incidents to the department’s Office of Safe Schools.