Racine proposal would fine parents of bullies

Fines up to $1,000

RACINE - Parents in Racine could be on the hook for up to $1,000 for their child's behavior.

An anti-bullying ordinance hopes to limit bullying in schools. 

"We were able to put more of the power into the people who have not had the ability to do anything in the past," said Jason Meekma, 14th District Alderman. 

The city hopes giving a voice to the voiceless is going to put a stop to bullying. It's especially poignant after the tragic death of a Glendale teen. Quentin Espinoza committed suicide after bullying. 

"To hear situations like Quentin Espinoza's breaks my heart," said Alex Upendo, an 11-year-old anti-bullying activist from Racine. "It lets me know how much more work I need to do. I'm the voice of children who have committed suicide and been bullied today. I am their voice." 

Upendo started a bow tie line about a year ago to help spark conversations about bullying. He said it's a way for him to be unique and stand out. He encourages kids to not be afraid to be unique and speak out when they're bullied. 

"Don't worry about the bully," Upendo said. "If you tell your parents, they can help a lot more. I learned that when I was being bullied. My parents are my allies. They're the best I've had."

Upendo said he's lucky to have the support system he has with his family. Without them, he may not be here.

"It makes me very sad that I thought about committing suicide myself because I was very upset," Upendo said. "I was being called names like nerd and dork. I was teased. I was lucky because I had a great support system. My parents. Some people don't have that support system. I was very lucky. Some kids are tempted to do it because with cyberbullying, they send messages like, oh you should kill yourself. You don't belong here anymore. They feel like no one cares about them whatsoever."

The ordinance goes for a full vote Tuesday but Upendo hopes to get things like this passed across the entire country. 

"I hope to get this through all 50 states, to make bullying illegal," Upendo said. "That's my dream definitely. People need to be held accountable."

The folks in Racine, many decades his senior, hope to make that a reality. 

"He lead this charge before any of us lead this charge," Meekma said. "His experience with bullying, which lead him to do what he's done, is not just inspirational but revolutionary. If one parent, one child changes their behavior and they start to step up and stand out against bullying or just stop being a bully, that's going to have a tremendous impact on the lives of more than just that child."

"If the parents are also held responsible, they may step up and say this isn't right," Tracey Larrin, 4th District Alderman said. "The parent may not even know the child is bullying somebody either. Now, this helps connect that."
 

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