Alarmed by reports of teen suicides, elected leaders in Carson, Calif., are moving to outlaw bullying.
Under an ordinance that will go before the City Council this week, it would become a misdemeanor in the small Harbor-area city located in Los Angeles County to cause anyone from kindergarten through age 25 to “feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested” with no legitimate purpose.
The measure, which also covers cyberbullying, would give law enforcement officers the discretion to charge alleged bullies with a lesser infraction rather than a misdemeanor.
“So many kids don’t even understand the concepts behind bullying and how people manipulate and take advantage of other kids,” said Carson Mayor Jim Dear, a public school teacher who supports the ordinance.
Councilman Mike Gipson, a co-author of the measure, said the goal was to make Carson a “bully-free city.”
The measure was inspired by reports of teens committing suicide after being bullied, he said.
The proposed ordinance mentions the vulnerability of gay, overweight, disabled and gifted children to bullying. It cites “hurtful, rude and mean text messages” as a key form of cyberbullying, along with “spreading rumors or lies about others by email or social networks.”
The strength of anti-bullying laws varies across the nation. California’s are seen as relatively weak.
In Florida, which has stronger anti-bullying laws, two girls, 12 and 14 years old, were charged with felonies in a high-profile case last year for harassing a 12-year-old classmate so much that she jumped to her death. Prosecutors dropped the case after deciding their evidence was insufficient.