The city council of Carson, Calif., has taken a step closer to passing an ordinance that would outlaw bullying.
Reuters reports the council voted 5-0 Tuesday to advance the proposal which still needs to come back for a final vote on May 20.
"We are going to draw a line in the sand tonight and we are going to say 'enough is enough,'" City Councilman Mike Gipson told local station KABC-TV. "We are going to protect not only the kid that is bothered in school, but when you leave school and go home, we're going to protect you as a city.”
Gipson is co-sponsor of the measure, which is modeled after a similar one in Monona, Wis. It defines bullying as "a willful course of conduct which involves harassment of a person(s) from kindergarten through age 25.”
It covers physical and verbal abuse, as well as cyberbullying. An infraction would be treated as a misdemeanor, which under California law, can carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
That has some thinking the proposed measure goes too far.
Brendan Hamme, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ordinance is too vague and even fails to specify the punishment for violation.
Ross Ellis, founder of the organization Stomp Out Bullying, agreed.
"Do you want someone to go to jail if they're calling someone a name?" he asked.
Carson Mayor Jim Dear said the law, if passed, would likely be challenged in court but he still supports it.
"We're not talking about putting a 5-year-old in jail, we're talking about intervening in both the bully's life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim's life," Dear said.
The measure includes language that would require the parents of a suspected bully to attend juvenile court with their child. The parents would be held partly responsible for the child’s actions according to Dear. He added that counseling and therapy would often be the recommended solution rather than jail time.
The law would protect school-age children as well as anyone up to age 25.
If it passes the city council vote later this month it could go into effect as early as June 1.