NORTH TONAWANDA — A new local law aims at holding parents accountable for their kids' bullying.
Effective Oct. 1, parents in North Tonawanda could possibly face a $250 fine and 15 days in jail if twice in a 90-day period if a child under 18 violates the city curfew or any other city law including bully and harassment.
This law comes after a small group of 14- and 15-year-olds was kicked out of their middle school for months of alleged bullying.
Back in May, police said the teens gathered outside a Dollar General store, waiting in ambush for another teen. One of the middle schoolers recorded the encounter, later posting it online.
"I saw the boy just sock him right in the face. He just punched him right in the face," said the mother of the boy who was ambushed. "And he was just smiling and laughing and shouting out how great it was, what he did to my son. He was looking right at me, completely fearless."
After the incident, Victoria and Will Crago, the parents of the boy who was bullied in the video, started the Facebook group, North Tonawanda Coalition for Safe Schools and Streets.
Within a couple of months, they had 600 members and began pressing the school system, the police department and city government for action, resulting in the new local law that puts parents on the hook for their child's behavior.
"Most of our parents are wonderful. They do take responsibility, and they do a good job with their children, and they guide them," said North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas. "But some just don't, and they need a wake-up call."
Will Crago said he is pleased with the new law and hopes it curbs the violence and mischief problems caused by some young people in North Tonawanda.
Defense attorney Paul Cambria, chair of the criminal department of the law firm Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, said the higher level of knowledge on the part of the parent, the more enforceable the law is.
"I think that [the law] could stick as long as it requires either a reckless disregard by the parents – in other words, they've seen bullying, did nothing about it – or participation by the parents – they gave them a gun, they went to school and shot someone – or there's a negligence here, in the sense that you've been notified your child's a bully and you're doing nothing about it," Cambria said. "If they get that knowledge, I think they can enforce the statute."