ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Experts say one in every four students reports being bullied during the school year. Proposed legislation could require schools to notify parents when their child is being bullied, but the bill comes with some opposition.
Christine Taras read the note her son Jacobe left her before taking his own life, “Dear mom and dad, I’m sorry but I cannot live anymore. I just can’t deal with all the bullying… being called gay being told to go kill myself, I’m really sorry for all that I put you through … I love you [signed] Jacobe Taras.” Christine said she wasn’t aware of the extent of bullying Jacobe endured until after he passed away. Taras is supporting legislation in memory of her son that would require schools to notify parents if their child is bullied.
“They don’t wanna go home and tell their parents what is happening and that can turn into a tragedy, that’s why it is so important to let the parents know when their child is being impacted,” said sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Tedisco. Lawmakers say under the Dignity for All Students Act, teachers are required to report instances of bullying to the State Education Department, but not to parents. Right now, schools usually decide for themselves whether or not to inform the parents.
Tedisco who is a former special education teacher got emotional during the press conference on Wednesday, “I can tell ya, that they believe and I believe, if they were notified he very well would be alive today.” Taras said this is common sense legislation, “But when I was going to school, you got disciplined in school and your parents got called. And just let alone to know your parents are gonna get called, it makes you stop and think.”
Lawmakers say its unlikely the bill will get passed this year. Those opposing are weary that if a child is being bullied for reasons that have to do with their sexuality, letting parents know could make things worse at home. However the bill does require the head of the school to designate someone to talk to students before reporting anything to parents. “And get the feedback from the child, now if he says ‘Oh I’m very fearful, they don’t know about me, and if they find out about me …’ they can make a determined decision then,” said Tedisco. The Senator also said a social worker can be brought in to help counsel the student. The bill has passed in the Senate, but not yet in the Assembly.