By Brandi Makuski
When officials from Plover approved a new ordinance to combat bullying early this month, they had no idea it would gain so much national attention.
Plover Police Chief has spent much of the past week conducting interviews with numerous state and national news outlets, to include CNN’s Headline News and Good Morning America.
“Pretty overwhelming; it’s been pretty good overall,” Ault said of the response. “I’ve received thank-you cards from all over the place…the sincerity and passion people are writing, it’s really a deep issue for people.”
The new ordinance levies a $124 fine against parents whose child is caught bullying more than once in a 90-day period. The citation- a “measure of last resort”, as Ault calls it- comes only after parents are first made aware of their child’s bullying behavior with a written warning.
“Parents have a natural instinct to protect and defend their children,” Ault said. “Sometimes parents just have that blind spot in thinking their child couldn’t possibly be bullying someone.”
Ault said while most feedback has been positive, there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, including those who question the need for a fine.
“Some people have asked, ‘Why not [have offenders] do community service?’ My response is, ‘How about, instead of me, or any government worker, watching your kid pick up cigarette butts in park, as a parent you punish them if they’re engaged in bullying? You have them rake the neighbor’s leaves, or pick up garbage on the side of the road.'”
The new ordinance was enacted by the Plover Village Board on Nov. 4.
Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney said he’s been “really surprised” by the national attention.
“But I think it says good things about what our community is doing,” Mahoney said. “It’s always nice to have some positive attention on the village.”
The ordinance also serves as a “wake up call” for parents, Ault said, to become more familiar with the actual scope of social media, which he argues doesn’t always bring immediate consequences.
“Bullying is kind of associated with school, but this is a community thing. This is after school, this is in the parks- and this is online. Kids will always be bullied to some degree- today’s degree is much higher than when we were kids, because of technology,” Ault said. “I think some parents are out of touch, and they’re not realizing the role social media plays. Do you know all the apps on your kids phone? Do you know who all of your friends are? Twenty, 30 years ago parents could say yes. Today, your kids are playing with people from all over the world you don’t even know because you can’t even turn the X-box on.”
Ault said the fine isn’t intended to target playground skirmishes or the occasional school fight.
“Bullying isn’t a one-time incident; it’s a repeated series of actions- it’s malicious and intentional, a repeated pattern of behaviors,” he said. “Kids are going to argue on the playground, kids are going to fight, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute bullying. But today, often times, it isn’t just kids being kids anymore; this is a different time in life from when you and I grew up.”