Should schools be required to report bullying to parents?
After son's suicide in 2015, one family from New York pushes for Jacobe's Law
In 2015, a 13-year-old boy wrote a heartbreaking letter to his parents on a sheet of lined notebook paper.
It read, in part, "Dear Mom and Dad, I'm sorry but I can not live anymore. I just can't deal with all the bullies, being called gay ... being told to go kill myself. I'm also done with being pushed, punched, tripped,” according to the Associated Press. The teen, a middle-schooler named Jacobe, signed off, "I LOVE YOU.”
He proceeded to kill himself with a hunting rifle. Jacobe’s mother, Christine Taras, found his body, along with the note, after returning home from running some errands, published reports say.
Taras and her husband, Richard Taras, knew their soft-spoken son had been picked on by a bully on the school bus. But they were unaware of the more extensive torment Jacobe endured in the school hallways, the AP reported.
Now, three years later, the Tarases are pushing for a new state law that would require schools to report bullying to parents. The couple lives about 40 miles north of Albany, New York.
A bill called “Jacobe’s Law,” sponsored by state Sen. Jim Tedisco, has passed the New York Senate two times, and requires that school employees charged with receiving reports of harassment, bullying or discrimination contact the parents or guardians of the students involved -- both the bullies and the victims -- when an incident of bullying or harassment takes place, according to Tedisco’s website.
However, the State Assembly has not moved forward with Jacobe’s Law.
To learn more about the bill and sign a petition to show your support, click or tap here.
To hear from Tedisco as he stands alongside Jacobe's parents, watch the video below.
At least eight states currently have laws on the books that require schools to notify parents of any bullying, the AP said in a report earlier this year. But such policies have come under attack from LGBT advocates who argue that schools officials could be put in the position of inadvertently outing gay, lesbian or transgender students to their parents.
And such children might avoid reporting bullying to officials for fear of having their parents told.
The Tarases just want to help prevent another situation such as their own from happening again.
"We had no idea of the extent or the seriousness of what was going on," Richard Taras has said. "My son didn't tell me and the school didn't pass along the information they had."
There are statewide requirements for parental notification in Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin, although the timing of these notifications varies. In Louisiana, a parent must be told before any student younger than age 18 is interviewed about a report of bullying. In Connecticut, parents must be notified within 48 hours after an investigation of bullying is completed, according to the AP.
Other states require schools to develop local policies on parental notification. They include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
"Jacobe was the kindest soul you could meet, with extremely good manners, empathy and people skills," Richard Taras said. "For someone like that to decide to take his own life, it's hard on so many levels. You feel like you didn't protect them."
With information from the Associated Press.
Graham Media Group 2018