Parents of a middle school student who committed suicide after enduring relentless bullying are facing opposition from a powerful and unlikely foe—LGBT lobby groups. Richard and Christine Taras are advocating for a New York law that would require school districts tell parents when their children are being bullied, information the grieving parents say could have helped them save their 13-year-old son, Jacobe.
“We had no idea of the extent or the seriousness of what was going on,” Richard Taras said. “My son didn't tell me and the school didn't pass along the information they had.”
But LGBT advocates say telling parents about bullying could unintentionally “out” students who don’t want their parents to know about their sexual orientation or gender identity. The push to protect some students leaves others vulnerable and confuses educators who want to help. The School Administrators Association of New York hasn’t taken a stance on the law out of concerns over the sexuality issue.
“It might seem like an area that should be clear cut, but it’s not for us,” said Cynthia Gallagher, an official with the association.
While advocacy groups quibble over which students are worth protecting, the Tarases just wish they’d known the extent of their son’s suffering. His suicide note offered their first and last glimpse into his torment: “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. I LOVE YOU.” —L.J.