Parents could face fine, jail under upstate anti-bullying law

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NORTH TONAWANDA -

Parents of bullies in an upstate town could face jail time under a new law that holds parents responsible for their children's behavior.

The law went into effect Oct. 1 in North Tonawanda, just north of Buffalo.

It calls for $250 fines and as much as 15 days in jail for the parents if their child violates any city law twice in a 90-day period, including bullying laws.

North Tonawanda officials say the law is geared toward minors who repeatedly bully other children in public places. The law comes after four teens were reportedly kicked out of North Tonawanda Middle School for alleged bullying.

On Long Island, even some parents of bullying victims are questioning the law.

Hunter Seyfried is a 9-year-old who says he's been bullied at his West Islip elementary school.

"Kids won't let other kids play with me at recess, and therefore I would just have a tiny little spot," he says. "I would sit in cooped up, just sitting and watching everybody play, and no one would let me play with them."

Despite the bullying, his father Eric Seyfried says he disagrees with a law that would hold parents accountable for that behavior.

"I don't think we can be 100 percent responsible for the actions of our kids, no matter how hard we try," he says.

Other parents say the law is fair.

"Have them scared," says Kings Park's Geraldine Briggs.

"If the kids can't face jail time, the parents should," says Rachel Torchon, of Commack.

Experts say there may be more involved in actually solving bullying.

"Incarceration in and of itself may not be the sole answer," says Michael Stoltz, of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness in Suffolk County. "It will always come back to, are there resources to help this family and this child who is acting out?"

He says he would like to see if the new law makes a difference upstate before deciding if it's something worth considering here.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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