Thursday, May 22, 2014
A week and a half ago, it was a forgone conclusion that Carson, California, would pass the nation's first anti-bullying ordinance. In a preliminary vote and hearing on May 6, the city council had voiced strong support. The ordinance would have made it a misdemeanor for anyone, from kindergartners to adults aged 25, to make another person feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” First and second infractions would be sanctioned with fines, and a third offense would be sanctioned with a criminal misdemeanor charge. The ordinance had received strong support from anti-cyberbullying advocates. The purported rational behind the ordinance was that the fines, in particular, would incentivize parents to police their children's use of social media at home.
Yesterday, the city council made an about-face, rejecting the ordinance. The shift appears to be a result of the ACLU, Lambda Legal Center, and anti-bullying advocates pointing out that the ordinance was too vague and overly broad. As such, it stood to sweep in some behavior that would be protected as free speech and would not amount to bullying. The city indicates it will explore other alternatives to combating bullying, such as preventative programs.