CARSON (AP) — Children as young as kindergarten-age could face misdemeanor charges for bullying under a proposed law advancing in a Southern California city.
The Carson City Council gave preliminary approval this week to an ordinance that would target anyone from kindergarten to age 25 who makes another person feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested” with no legitimate purpose.A final vote is set for May 20.
First-time offenders could be ticketed for an infraction and fined $100. A second infraction would cost $200, and a third-time offense could bring a criminal misdemeanor charge.
“If a child is bullying someone, and a parent has to pay a $100 fine as a result of that, a responsible parent will realize their child needs some help,” said Councilman Mike Gipson, who introduced the ordinance and is spearheading a campaign to make Carson bully-free.
Adults who bully would be charged with either an infraction or a misdemeanor, which could come with jail time.
The measure also would cover forms of cyberbullying in the city of 93,000 people in Los Angeles County.
It’s unclear how the Sheriff’s Department would enforce the law, since infractions and misdemeanors rarely are doled out unless the crime is witnessed by a law enforcement officer, officials said.
“A fitness hearing would be required to try a child as a criminal,” Lt. Arthur Escamillas told the newspaper. “But if you see a 4-year-old riding a bike down the street without a helmet, are you going to give a 4-year-old a ticket? It’s discretionary.”
Whether officers cite and charge children with misdemeanors for bullying will have to be decided by the Sheriff’s Department leadership, Escamillas said.