Proposal could put bullies behind bars - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Proposal could put bullies behind bars


Young bullies behind bars, is a proposed crackdown too much?

A Michigan lawmaker has proposed a bill that could land both juvenile and adult bullies in jail.

"We have to address the issue of bullying because it has such profound consequences," says Republican Representative Dale Zorn.

This Michigan Representative says enough is enough and wants bullies to face the threat of getting locked up.

"This is some cutting edge legislation that we're working on," says Zorn.

He's proposed the bill is the first of its kind, making bullying a crime.

It would be punishable by up to 93 days in jail or a hefty fine or both.

"It's not my intent or the intent of this bill for kids to end up with a police record the rest of their life for something they may have done that was somewhat silly in high school," says Zorn.

What is his intent is to get them help.  The courts would have the ability to call for a mental health evaluation for the bully.

Bottom line, Zorn says the point is to help kids become better citizens, and in some cases, records could be wiped clean.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz says while he thinks it's a good thing that Zorn's bill is opening up the discussion, he's not sure yet whether it's the right road to take.

He says right now, the bill needs some tweaking.

"I do think right now in the way it's presently written, there are some free-speech challenges so we would be cautious of the use of anything that we thought might be a violation of the first amendment," says Fitz.

Fitz also says he wants to make sure that kids won't be charged for age-old name-calling.

"We want to be careful that we don't make every comment that a kid says subject to criminal charges. We don't want to make our playgrounds filled with little criminals," says Fitz.

But what do parents think?

"As long as we're not overburdening the court system, I think it's something we can definitely explore," says John Bossler, a Michigan dad of four.

Mark Stallworth, Michigan parent of two says, "I think it should be on a case by case basis. For teenagers, I can see it being a crime, but for an elementary age kid, maybe not so."

Fitz says there are already anti-bullying laws on the books.

People can be charged for threatening others by electronic means, for instance texting or emails.

People can be charged for assault and battery if they physically threaten someone.

Zorn doesn't expect a committee to take up the bill until Fall.

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