Bullying in one Southern California city might soon be against the law after Carson city council members voted Tuesday night to move forward with an anti-bullying ordinance that makes it a crime.
Anyone caught harassing someone, from kindergarten up to the age of 25, could be charged with a misdemeanor if it is determined that bullying would lead to physical and mental harm to the subject being bullied, according to a proposed ordinance. The ordinance, which went before the Carson City Council for a first reading Tuesday night, would make the parent or guardian "responsible for the bullying acts of the child" if the adult knew about the act.
The violations can be charged as misdemeanors or infractions.
"Bullying is such a hard topic because most people think it’s just something you grow up with, but that's not a part of growing up. When you're feeling worthless and not having somebody with you, that's not a part of growing up, it shouldn’t ever be either," anti-bullying advocate Jade Archer told NBC4 at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Harassment, as defined by the ordinance, will be considered "any conduct, whether verbal, physical, written or by means of any mode of communication" that causes a person to feel "terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested and which serves no legitimate purpose."
The ordinance cites studies and statistics to emphasize bullying’s detrimental effect on society. Both victims and perpetrators of bullying were found to be more likely to commit suicide than those who were not bullied, and suicide has been identified as the third leading cause of the death in teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new law also applies to cyberbullying – which includes "sending hurtful, rude and mean text messages" and "spreading rumors or lies about others by email or other social networks," as stated in the ordinance.
"This is just a step in the right direction and it gives kids hope who are being bullied and who suffer in silence that you know what, they do care about us," Woodland Hills resident Vallerie Archer said. "(My daughter Jade and I have) been working with Carson for almost a year now and this is something we have passion in doing and we will continue to go everywhere to get this passed."
There are no federal laws that address bullying and cyberbullying, and California state law limits punishment for bullying to school discipline.
The new law could go into effect in the city of Carson next month if it is approved at a second reading.
Editor's Note: An earlier verson of this story stated incorrectly that the ordinance was already in effect.