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This Family Is Fighting to Pass a Law That Would Require Schools to Inform Parents of Bullying

Yes, some objections to the law are valid, but parents still need a way to know when their child is being harmed.

Photo courtesy of Richard Taras

The family of a New York boy who killed himself after relentless bullying at school is now pushing for a law that would require schools to inform parents when bullying happens. It was only when Christine Taras returned from an errand to find her 13-year-old son Jacobe dead that she or his father even knew there was a problem that he was dealing with at school.

“He was being punched, kicked, pushed,” said Jacobe’s father Richard Taras. “Being called gay, being told to kill himself every day.”

It was when Jacobe’s parents found his suicide note that they became certain the school knew about their son’s treatment and didn’t make any effort to intervene or notify them. The school denies any knowledge of the bullying, but Jacobe’s death is still raising important questions. In New York and many other states, schools legally have to report bullying to the state education department, but not to the bullied child’s parents.

“Some of the things that were going on — physical contact, throwing books in the shower — this was a pattern,” said Richard Taras.  “And they tried to say ‘it’s no big deal, boys being boys.'”

According to State Senator James Tedisco, Jacobe would probably still be alive if his parents had gotten the chance to intervene. That’s why Tedisco chose to sponsor the new legislation which and name it Jacobe’s Law. The law has passed twice in the New York Senate but is stuck in the state assembly. Moreover, using legislation to combat bullying is divisive and other means of dealing with it can’t be dismissed out of hand. Should a kid be bullied for their sexual orientation or gender presentation at school, some fear that telling their parents could worsen the child’s home life. That’s a very valid concern, but for Jacobe’s mom, the need for kids to feel safe at school is vital.

“Our children need to be able to go to school and feel safe,” said Christine Taras. “I want my son’s memory to glow again and it would save another kid’s life with Jacobe’s Law.”