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Calif. City Wants To Make It A Crime To Bully Those Younger Than 26

A California town is moving closer to making it a misdemeanor crime to bully anyone from kindergarten age up to 25 years old. The Carson City Council voted unanimously in favor of the measure this week, and it will come up for final approval May 20.

"We are going to protect not only the kid that is bothered in school, but when you leave school and go home, we're going to protect you as a city," bill co-sponsor Councilman Mike Gipson says, according to local KABC 7 TV.

Carson Mayor Jim Dear, a public school teacher, supports the measure, with the goal of making Carson a "bully-free city," the Los Angeles Times has reported.

A City Council report calls bullying a problem that affects 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 — and an even greater percentage of specific populations, such as people who are obese, disabled, gifted or are in a sexual minority group.

The report says victims of bullying are more likely to attempt or consider suicide and are more prone to have mental health issues later in life. It also notes that bullies suffer problems of their own, such as a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, and a greater likelihood that they'll be convicted for a crime after they become adults.

The Carson measure would expand on the definition of bullying as defined in California's laws, to include harassment and online activities.

"Offenders would face a misdemeanor charge for an infraction, and they would be required to pay a fine and seek counseling," KABC reports.

The bill has its critics, some of whom say it's not ready to become a law.

"Brendan Hamme, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the measure is too vague and does not even spell out how much jail time an offender could potentially face," Reuters reports, "although in California a misdemeanor crime can carry a maximum sentence of a year in jail."

The measure also sparked a debate on NPR member station KPCC between Dear and Susan Porter, author of Bully Nation: Why America's Approach to Childhood Aggression Is Bad for Everyone.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to Carson Mayor Jim Dear as mayor of Carson City.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.