Sun Prairie approves anti-bullying ordinance, mayor casts tie-breaking vote

The Sun Prairie City Council voted to approve an ordinance Tuesday that supporters hope will curb bullying in area schools.

The ordinance, first introduced by Alder Maureen Crombie, would allow police to cite parents of kids who bully others.

Parents testified in front of the council, saying they have watched their kids be bullied for years, and they don’t think the schools are doing enough.

Sun Prairie council talking about an ordinance now that would fine parents if their kids bully others. One woman spoke in support &read a message from her friend. Her daughter tried to die by suicide because she’d had enough. Today. On the first day of school. #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) September 4, 2019

Rogette Koby said she has spoken on the issue of bullying a number of times over the year. In place of her own testimony, she read a message she said she got from a friend on the same day as the meeting.

“On this first day of school today, my daughter finally had enough,” Koby read. “She tried to commit suicide … As you sit in that room, I will sit here and wish I would have done more. I will ponder all I didn’t do and all I did do. This is a much larger issue than my hospital room.”

The Sun Prairie School District started an anti-bullying task force earlier this year, but Crombie said this issue deserves a team approach.

“It’s all about a quality-of-life issue for me,” she said. “Why not have the school and the police department, the city and the social workers and parents? If we can all come to the table to discuss this, then we’re doing our job.”

Not every person who testified supported the ordinance.

Samantha Clausen Ruppert said the passage of the ordinance as written could have unintended consequences for minority populations, such as people of color, people with disabilities or poor people. She said a better approach would be one that uses restorative justice, a field in which she works, in place of fines and citations.

“Restorative justice has the same goals that everybody in this room wants: healing, peace and community,” she said. “Using a police citation or a police warning to intervene in youth conflict continues the cycle of harm. It shows kids that to stop harming people, they have to be harmed themselves.”

After her testimony, alders introduced an amendment and preamble to the ordinance that would incorporate restorative justice practices into the city’s methods.

The ordinance and its amendment and preamble passed in separate votes. The preamble and amendment votes were all unanimous. The vote on the ordinance was a tie, which was broken by the mayor voting to pass it.

Sun Prairie now becomes the second municipality in the Madison area to adopt an anti-bullying ordinance.

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