Parents of kid bullies could face jail time

By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (AP) — First came the sucker-punch to their 13-year-old son from an older boy outside a dollar store.

Then came the gut-punch from police, who told the parents they were all but powerless to punish the 15-year-old attacker.

“We were essentially told that, being a minor, there was nothing that could be done,” said William Crago, whose son was left with a black eye. “We actually heard that several times: ‘There’s nothing we can do.’”

Not anymore.

This city just north of Buffalo is getting attention for a new law that lets authorities send parents of bullies to jail for up to 15 days and fine them up to $250.

The City Council voted unanimously Oct. 3 to amend an existing law to add bullying, harassment and underage drinking to the existing curfew violations parents already could be held accountable for.

Lawmakers also removed a provision that prevented anything more than a warning for a first offense, meaning parents can face a fine or jail right away.

A community coalition begun by Crago and his wife, Victoria, after the May 8 attack on their son pushed for the change, which was supported by police and schools in the 31,000-person city.

Even in cases where kids are convicted in Family Court, Crago said, there are no real consequences. He said the boy who punched his son was given probation, and only after the Cragos pushed for an assault conviction.

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