Facing the Facts of Bullying

So I have seen a couple of articles discussing the possibility of fining parents of children that bully others; you can check out one such article here.

With this on the virtual table I’d like to tell my story. Rewind back to December 8, 1989 … my 16th birthday; and what a memorable one it was. The local school district had just adopted an ordinance stating if a person was involved in a fist fight on school grounds they would be cited for disorderly conduct. Of course, me being the rebel that I was I had to test the concept.

Fists flew in the cafetorium, a teacher grabbed me from behind, and I was unaware of who or what had a hold of me, I clocked her upside the head. The other student and I were removed to the office to await the arrival of police. The citation floored me as the officer handed it over, shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Happy Birthday.”

The court date drew near and I was so nervous that I was sick to my stomach, but I played tough girl and kept it together. The courtroom was an ominous place to be I thought as I tried to hide my fear. Police officers were everywhere, and the teacher that I had unknowlingly punched was there too.

I guess, for court proceedings it was fairly normal, but at the time I had nothing to compare it to, nor did I want anything to compare it to!

I was called to stand before the judge, as my parents remained seated behind me. Questions were asked of me by the judge, honestly, I don’t even remember what was said, I only remember the mousy voice that stumbled over my lips where normally an obnoxious voice was sure to be heard.

The judge determined that I was guilty and fined me $300. I didn’t bat an eye, I just thought, no big deal, one more bill for Mom and Dad to pay.

From behind me I heard my father’s booming voice, “Judge, I’m Laura’s father. May I address the court?”

Permission was granted and the truth of our circumstances escaped into the court room that was jam packed with nosy bodies looking to see what the first offense in the school district would bring.

“Your Honor,” Dad said, “I am retired, I am on a fixed income, and Laura does not have a job. I feel as if I am being punished for her wrong doing and I just think the consequences should be Laura’s, not mine.”

My knees weakened, my heart raced, I couldn’t believe that I was going to have to face the consequences of … of … of my own behavior!?

It was to be so. The judge ordered me to work with Bucks County Youth Aid Panel, where I was required to write an essay detailing what wisdom I had gained from my experience, and community service to pay off my fines.

Ho, hum, community service, so I pick up some trash along the road and call it good. NO! This was different, I was made to work in the janitorial department of the local township building, which also housed the police department. Here I got to know police, I got to joke with them, and learn that even they are human and their job is to protect us … in some cases they are protecting us from ourselves.

What did I gain? Respect, both self respect, and respect for others. Consequences for my behavior, and that was a life changer.

Some parents don’t want their children to face consequences in these matters, if that’s the case, by all means, let the parent be fined. However, kids learn best with consequences that they must pay by themselves.

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