A House bill that's now before the Senate seeks to hold parents liable if their children are found to be bullies in schools. These parents will be made to pay a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisoned for not more than 90 days for a third and subsequent offense.
House Bill 17-159, authored by Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian) and passed the House recently, says bullying in schools is increasing and is a significant threat to the youth.
Conner said his bill seeks “to address and deter bullying in schools by establishing parental liability for the harm inflicted by bullies who are not properly disciplined and supervised by their parents.”
If and when this bill becomes law, he believes that bullying will decrease as parents recognize and appreciate that they have a responsibility and now possible criminal liability for allowing their children to bully others.
Conner said because individuals that bully others are often minors or those under 18 years old, addressing bullies directly through fines and incarceration is not legally practical.
“For this reason, the Legislature finds that the parents of bullies should be held responsible under a theory of parental liability,” the bill states in its findings.
“Bullying,” as defined in the bill, is “behavior by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group, either physically or emotionally.”
Bullying can take many forms, including teasing and spreading rumors to pushing someone around and causing physical harm. It includes name calling, mocking, kicking, taking belongings, writing or drawing offensive graffiti, messing with people's belongings, gossiping, excluding people from groups, and threatening others.
Young people are bullied for all sort of reasons, including due to their race, religion, appearance, sexual orientation, disability, or because of their home circumstances.
Sometimes, however, victims are bullied and picked on for no reason.
In addition to traditional forms of school yard bullying, CNMI youth may also be victimized by “cyberbullying,” which involves the use of mobile phones or Internet. Examples of cyberbullying are sending offensive text messages and emails, circulating degrading images on the Internet, or impersonating someone on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
For a first offense, the parent of a bully could be fined not less than $100 and not more than $500, and imprisonment of not more than 30 days.
For a second offense, a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000, and imprisonment of not more than 60 days.
A third offense or subsequent offense could result in a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000, and imprisonment for not more than 90 days.
In addition to any of these penalties, the parent may also be liable for attorney's fees and costs associated with any related lawsuit.