Kansas City looks to stop bullying off school grounds - KCTV5


KCMO City Council passes ordinance to stop bullying off school grounds

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Kansas City, MO, is taking steps to stop bullying.

Officials said bullying is a growing problem that school districts have been battling for years. New problems leave them wondering how to address bullying that happens away from school property, and in other places in the community.

The Kansas City, City Council unanimously voted Thursday to pass an innovative anti-bullying ordinance.

"I hope this sends a message that we will not tolerate this behavior in Kansas City. Every child, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability/disability or size, deserves to have an opportunity to be in a safe atmosphere throughout our city," Ordinance sponsor Councilman Scott Taylor said in a news release. "I am pleased in the strong community support for this ordinance."

"Bullying is intended to expose, harass, embarrass and hurt youth, who don't fit the form," said Justin Shaw, the executive director of the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.

While it's easy to define, it's hard to stop bullies before damage is done, but Wednesday several people spoke up, in a special meeting, in favor of the new ordinance that bans bullying in Kansas City, MO, and fines parents up to $1,000 if their child is caught doing it.

Keri Erbe said for years she was taunted in school by classmates, who were homophobic and transphobic. It was so bad, she attempted to take her own life six times.

"I would say my fifth-grade year was my worst year. I received a lot of hate mail in my locker. It really tears you up," she said.

The new ordinance attempts to hold students and their parents accountable for bullying.

Marva Moses, who works at the Hickman Mills Preservation Coalition, said during a fight caught on tape in Kansas City, some of the parents themselves actually blocked the streets with their own cars, to prevent police from breaking up the violence.

"It was a very interestingly dangerous situation when 10 girls orchestrated this park fight. We had a lot of parental involvement that wasn't good, and police had a hard time managing the situation because of parental involvement. It let us know the issue was bigger than just young people," she said.

Taylor said there are 14 districts within the city limits, with their own anti-bullying policies. But it's when the problem is off school grounds, that the new ordinance will help districts and law enforcement address the issue.

"We intentionally made the ordinance flexible. The $1,000 fine is optional in worst cases, but there's also the option we prefer, is the kids that are bullying get help to stop the pattern, break the cycle because eventually, if we don't, these kids will grow up and create greater havoc in the community," he said.

The anti-bullying ordinance passed Wednesday out of the Public Safety Committee.

Kansas City is now one of the first cities in the United States to enact strict anti-bullying laws, that hold parents accountable for bullies in the country.

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