The city of Carson has decided to take a stand once and for all against bullying. A newly introduced ordinance now criminalizes the bullying of school children, teens and young adults. City officials instituted the ordinance in hopes of sending a strong message to would-be bullies.
While bullying largely goes underreported by children and young adults, federal data suggests that 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 are victims of bullying. Meanwhile, the state Penal Code in California only penalizes bullying where, “a bully makes an actual threat to the life or safety of his or her victim.”1
The ordinance takes a broader approach towards bullying and also targets bullies who repeat the offense. Under Carson’s new rules, if you are caught bullying a second time, you will be ordered to participate in counseling and anger management classes. If you are caught a third time, then you are facing a misdemeanor.
This ordinance tackles the issue of cyber-bullying as well.2 In light of some of the startling bullying statistics, and the increase in cyber-bullying, Carson officials hope to fill the gaps in California’s criminal justice system. Let’s take a look at how Ordinance No. 14-1535 does just that.
Carson’s Ordinance No. 14-1535: The Ins and Outs
The purpose of the newly proposed law is to tackle some of the many issues surrounding modern-day bullying amongst children and young adults. These include:
- Bullying and cyber-bullying’s links to serious health impacts in victims;
- Bullying and cyber-bullying’s links to attempted suicide amongst high school students;
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers according to the Center for Disease Control;
- Victims of bullying and cyber-bullying have increased mental health problems such as depression and low self-esteem;
- Alleged bullies show a higher risk of abusing alcohol and drugs; and
- California’s law currently does not address the issues of bullying and cyber-bullying specifically.4
Ordinance No. 14-1535 helps law enforcement and schools address the worst cases of bullying and cyber-bullying in Carson. It will also hopefully protect minors from physical and mental harm.
Sections 41602 and 41603 prohibit students from engaging in bullying and retaliating against people who report bullying. Some specific acts that are punishable under Ordinance No. 14-1535 are:
- Bullying: willfully harassing someone from kindergarten through the age of 25;
- Cyber-bullying: willfully harassing someone from kindergarten through the age of 25 using any type of electronic communication device; and
- Harassment: any conduct that would cause a person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. 5
If you commit any of these acts in the city of Carson, whether over a short or long period of time, you may be convicted of bullying.
Consequences of Violating Ordinance No. 14-1535
If you are between the ages of 18-25 and are caught engaging in or encouraging bullying or cyberbullying, you face the following consequences:
- Counseling and/or anger management;
- An infraction; or
- A misdemeanor.6
The punishment you receive depends on your history of bullying and the discretion of the enforcing officer.
Let Wallin and Klarich Hear Your Opinion
At Wallin and Klarich, we encourage both our clients and our readers to give us feedback and share their opinions. What do you think about these new local ordinances? Should other cities in California adopt these ordinances? Give us your thoughts.