Suicide victim’s father speaks at student safety bill hearing

Posted at 11:46 AM, Feb 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-21 20:28:57-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill concerning child suicide and bullying was addressed in a hearing at the Utah Capitol Thursday.

The bill would require schools to notify parents if their child threatens suicide or if they are involved in bullying, hazing or retaliation.

House Bill 134, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, was discussed in the House Education Committee. Bud Peterson, father of a bullied boy who committed suicide in January, spoke at the hearing.

"They see what happens to the kids, they see who is picking on kids," said Peterson. "During the viewing [for my son], I had teachers, a couple of teachers, come through the line. One thing they said to me that will live with me forever is 'we see this all the time.'"

If HB134 were to pass, if a school becomes aware of a potential suicide threat or bullying, they need to notify parents and have parents sign an acknowledgment form. The district would not be required to provide any other information, such as counseling or outside resources, unless the parent asks.

A lawmaker critical of the bill said that although it serves a need, the enforcement should come from state education leaders and not lawmakers.

Lawmakers plan to look at the bill again next week. It is similar to one that passed a committee and is headed to the Senate floor for debate. The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake County.