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Negative testimony: Vote on bullying ordinance that would fine parents delayed again in Racine

RACINE -- The Racine Common Council again on Wednesday night, Jan. 17 voted to delay the passage of a proposed anti-bullying ordinance that would fine parents of bullies up to $1,000. The vote was delayed in December, and when council members heard residents' concerns Wednesday night, they decided it would be best to press pause once again.

Testimony during Racine Common Council hearing on bullying ordinance

For the first time, during a public input session on the proposed ordinance, the majority of residents who spoke out said they're against making bullying a municipal offense.

"I come to urge you to consider prevention rather than punishment," one person said.

"The parents or guardian would have to take off of work and fight this in court," another resident said.

The ordinance has generally received support in the past, and council members took the overwhelmingly negative opinion to heart on Wednesday.

"I don't want to vote against us having an anti-bullying ordinance, but that's the position I'm in right now," an alderman said.

Alderman Dennis Wiser

Testimony during Racine Common Council hearing on bullying ordinance

"I think the safest route though is to adopt it in its current form that has been approved by the city attorney, then go back and see if there are modifications to make down the road," Alderman Dennis Wiser said.

The ordinance states, in part: "If police determine a child has been bullying someone else, his or her parents are required to correct the behavior within 90 days or else risk paying a fine of up to $1,000."

"If we just go and pass it because we're going to revisit it with amendments later, we're not sending a very powerful message about how we feel about this. We're sending a message of 'well, it's good enough,'" Alderman Jason Meekma said.

Even Alderman Meekma, who helped write the ordinance, said Wednesday it's too soon to push such a big measure through -- instead swaying fellow council members to delay the vote pending further discussion.

Alderman Jason Meekma

"We need to take responsibility as a body as send the right message, the strong messages on how we believe these things should go," he said.

 

The ordinance was sent back to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee. It's unclear at this point when it could come up for a vote by the council.