There currently is no requirement in New York that schools notify parents if their children are being bullied
There's a battle over bullying in New York state. Right now, if your child is bullied in schools no one is required to tell you about it. But a New York couple is pushing to change that.
Every parent, of course, wants to know if their kid is being picked on or targeted at school, which is why Richard and Christine Taras are calling on lawmakers to pass Jacobe's Law.
The Albany-area couple believe if the law had already been on the books, their son might still be alive today.
"He was being punched, kicked, pushed," said Richard Taras, Jacobe's father. "Being called gay, being told to kill himself every day,"
Jacobe was just 13 years old when he killed himself. But it was only after his death that his parents became aware of the bullying Jacobe experienced at his school.
Jacobe's suicide note led to a state police investigation. The boy's parents claim school staff had been aware, but in court, school officials denied knowing about the bullying.
Under New York law, schools have to report these cases to the state's Education Department, but they don't have to alert parents.
Some state lawmakers want to make that mandatory, but LGBTQ advocates have raised concerns about the rights of students.
"I believe Jacobe Taras would be alive today potentially, if his parents had the chance to intervene," said state Senator James Tedisco, "They didn't have that opportunity."
"We welcome parent involvement, but some of these young people, some of these LGBTQ young people don’t have a supportive household to go back to," said Ikaika Regidor, director of education and youth programs at GLSEN, a national educator organization working to create safe and inclusive schools. "It might be hostile or there might be repercussions for what that might mean for them."
Opponents say the focus should be on creating the right environment in classrooms. Jacobe's parents say the law would allow protections for kids who aren't out at home.
Eight states have similar laws in place. In New York, while the Senate has passed Jacobe’s Law twice, the Assembly hasn’t moved on it.