In an effort to keep bullies at bay, officials in one Upstate New York community are threatening to fine and even jail parents whose children repeatedly mistreat others.
Under the new law in North Tonawanda, New York, parents will be penalized if their kid violates a city law -- such as bullying another minor in public, throwing illegal parties or staying out past the city curfew -- twice in 90 days, notes The Associated Press.
The law went into effect on Oct. 1. Maximum penalties include a $250 fine and 15 days in jail.
"The intent is to protect and prevent," said North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, according to The Buffalo News. "It was the result of people in the community who thought things were too loose in regard to juveniles."
City Attorney Luke A. Brown said that there are no other laws like this one in Western New York and maybe not even in the whole state. He called this regulation an attempt to collaborate to "make the city safer."
"I'm all for it," said school superintendent Greg Woytila. "When you've got 3,000-plus students and two or three are out of control, that's too many. One's too many. Sometimes the police officers are the only ones trying. The families have given up."
North Tonawanda Police Capt. Karen Smith said that earlier in 2017, a few middle school students were involved in multiple violent incidents, which infuriated parents and police officers and inspired the new rules.
"I can tell you that, back as the juvenile officer, this last spring and summer was the worst I had seen in the 19 years I've been there, with this core group of about five juvenile males who were getting in trouble on a real regular basis," Smith explained.
One of these students, an eighth-grader, ended up in family court after he attacked another student outside a Dollar General store, she said.
"The suspect was in the area, which is a common area for the kids to hang around after middle school lets out, and the victim came out of the store with his mom, and the suspect just came up and sucker-punched him," Smith added.
But even amid legal proceedings regarding the altercation, the student's behavior reportedly did not change.
"It seemed like this individual was still on the streets, causing havoc," she said. "The police were caught in a corner where they felt they couldn't do anything."
Since the law is designed to prevent extreme and rowdy behavior, rather than to punish families for minor incidents, officials said that judges will be able to make the call whether to sentence parents of offending children to jail time, impose a maximum or reduced fine or to simply let them off with a warning.
"The big thing is to have parents have more control of their children," said Assistant City Attorney Nicholas B. Robinson, who wrote the law in question.